Object Place: Alfred, New York
Overall: 43.5 x 6.4 cm (17 1/8 x 2 1/2 in.)
Medium or Technique
Silver, ebony, cork
The 1940s and 1950s (Gallery 336)
The raised vessel is composed of a slightly convex base that is surmounted by a slender trumpet-shaped neck. The lower portion has been raised, and the long neck was made in two sections: the narrow neck and the trumpet-shaped base. Both have been secured with lap joints, and the whole is soldered to the lower section, at the shoulder. The vessel is capped by a tall ebony and cork stopper carved in an abstract design. The finial is set into a silver ferrule that is secured to a wooden disk with a cork stopper. The whole is secured by a silver bolt threaded through the cork.
Talented and adventurous, Lorna Belle Pearson was the daughter of New York City art educator Ralph M. Pearson and elder sister of silversmith Ronald Hayes Pearson (1924 – 1996). She was often involved with her father’s work; as a teenager, she contributed images to his book The New Art Education (1951). Despite an illustrious start to her career, she ceased practicing her craft due to the demands of marriage and children.
Pearson was a student at Black Mountain College from 1944 to 1946, when she transferred to the School for American Craftsmen, then located in Alfred, New York. It was a seminal, formative time in the history of both institutions. At the School for American Craftsmen, she decided to pursue a career as a silversmith, graduating in 1948 with a certificate of Master Craftsmanship in Metal.
While at the school, Pearson studied under jeweler Philip Morton and silversmiths Alden Wood, Lauritz Eichner, Charles Reese, and John Prip (cat. no. 354). After graduation, she exhibited at several early craft venues, including the “Wichita National” exhibitions. In 1951 she was appointed Crafts Director for the U.S. Army Special Services in Japan. Upon her return to the United States, Pearson taught studio crafts at the University of New Hampshire from 1952 to 1954.
This decanter was one of two works honored at the 1953 Designer Craftsman Exhibition held at the Contemporary Craft Museum. She won first prize for a pitcher and honorable mention for the decanter. These awards marked her as an artist of promise and were all the more meaningful since the field included silver by senior craftspeople, including her former professor Prip.
With its slender neck and broad base, the decanter was a complex work to achieve. Presenting a gleaming and seamless surface, the highly planished surface belies its complex construction. The carved ebony finial has abstract, African overtones and provides a contrast in color and texture, a combination occasionally found in midcentury silver.
Long in the shadow of her brother, Lorna Pearson is receiving late recognition for her achievements. Like many women who chose the path of wife and mother to that of artist, she fell into obscurity. Almost fifty years later, we can look back and appreciate the elegant and flawless lines of her silver, noting with admiration all she accomplished during her brief but brilliant career.
This text has been adapted from “Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000,” edited by Jeannine Falino and Gerald W.R. Ward, published in 2008 by the MFA. Complete references can be found in that publication.
“PEARSON / STERLING” struck incuse on base. “188” in red paint and “C/G 43 – 4A” in blue ink on cloth tape, also on base.
Decanter and brooch (2001.259) remained in artist's possession since the time that they were made until their gift to the Museum in 2001.
The Living New England Artist Purchase Fund, created by The Stephen and Sybil Stone Foundation
Reproduced with permission.