The work of Harrison McIntosh (b. 1914) has a simple elegance that unites elements both ancient and modern. The Southern California artist, an early figure in the history of American ceramics, has remained loyal to his quiet, cohesive aesthetic throughout his career, stating that "simplification is a basic principle of mine, and I strive to purify and strengthen an idea." Hazel Bray, former Curator of Art at the Oakland Museum, has described the consistency and natural evolution of McIntosh’s work: Over the years his work has accumulated a virtuosity that has become as rich as a Bach fugue in its variations upon a theme. Resisting superficial flirtations with novelty or partially realized expressions, is a mark of his strength of personal conviction and maturity...whether vessel or object, his work has become an achievement of defined limits and of nourished strengths from which new forms have gradually evolved. McIntosh was introduced to ceramics when he enrolled in Glen Lukens’ class at the University of Southern California in 1940. He then studied at the Claremont Graduate School with Richard Petterson from 1949 through 1953, during which time he produced his first wheel thrown stoneware vessels and began to show them in exhibitions. Working with Marguerite Wildehain during the summer of 1953, he gained his first exposure to the Bauhaus aesthetic and incorporated it into his developing style. He taught the next year at Otis Art Institute, where he worked with Peter Voulkos, whose work he greatly admires to this day. It is a testament to McIntosh’s dedication to his own vision that he was able to appreciate the expressive, sculpted forms of the Otis group while remaining true to his own aesthetic pursuits. After his time at Otis, McIntosh settled in Claremont, California, where he built a peaceful, quiet studio and home that suited his visual sensibilities and his working methods. Since then he has continued to live the life of a studio potter, occasionally punctuating his time in the studio with other projects. He has enjoyed brief teaching positions and a commission designing crystal and dinnerware with his wife Marguerite for the Mikasa company, but through it all he has remained primarily focused on developing his own work. In the 1970’s he moved gradually from the vessel into making more sculptural, closed ceramic spheres that express the same elegant refinement as his vases, bowls, and jars. Now, having completed more than half a century of work in clay, he has developed a well regarded body of work that is held in public and private collections throughout the world.
Simplicity, symmetry, and perfection are exemplified in Harrison McIntosh’s functional ceramics. With its simple even stripes, this cone-shaped striped stoneware vessel is congruent with the aesthetic of McIntosh’s vases, bowls, and jars. His work calls on simple shapes and geometric, rhythmic patterns that are both modern and reminiscent of ancient stoneware. Of McIntosh’s work, Hazel Bray, former curator of art at the Oakland Museum, wrote, “Over the years his work has accumulated a virtuosity that has become as rich as a Bach fugue in its variations upon a theme. Resisting superficial flirtations with novelty or partially realized expressions is a mark of his strength of personal conviction and maturity”. This piece represents one variation on Harrison McIntosh’s overarching theme of ancient yet modern symmetry.