By Hans van Lem­men. Smith­so­nian Books, 2013. 304 pp., $39.95

Arts and Crafts Homes - - UP FRON T - RE­VIEWED BY PA­TRI­CIA POORE

TILE’S LONG HIS­TORY and its many ex­pres­sions are cov­ered in this am­bi­tious ref­er­ence that also presents 330 color images. After in­tro­duc­ing his­tor­i­cal un­der­pin­nings, the book de­votes many pages to me­dieval tile mak­ing. Th­ese early tech­niques were re­dis­cov­ered dur­ing Eng­land’s 19th-cen­tury Gothic Re­vival. The Re­nais­sance and Baroque pe­ri­ods were a “golden age of tile” that in­tro­duced tin glaz­ing, which al­lowed for an opaque white sur­face that could be paint-dec­o­rated.

Anthropology meets art, as, for ex­am­ple, in the spread of early Is­lamic de­sign. Is­lamic pot­ters de­vel­oped four main tile dec­o­ra­tion tech­niques: lus­tre dec­o­ra­tion, tile mo­saic, cuerda seca, and un­der-glaze paint­ing. Con­sider th­ese crit­i­cal tech­niques com­bined with the use of ab­stract and styl­ized de­sign mo­tifs, and it’s easy to see why Is­lamic tile art in­spired so much tile-mak­ing since, in­clud­ing the work of Wil­liam De Mor­gan.

Bri­tish tile his­to­rian Hans van Lem­men de­votes a sub-chap­ter to Amer­i­can Arts & Crafts tiles, prais­ing the work of Henry Chap­man Mercer as “orig­i­nal and rank[ing] amongst the great tile ex­per­i­ments of the New World.” He goes on to doc­u­ment Mercer’s in­flu­ence on Grueby and Batchelder, and cov­ers the unique con­tri­bu­tions of Rookwood and The Satur­day Evening Girls’ Club.

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