Theme/Style – Arts and Crafts, Modernist, landscape, portraits, art tile
Media – Ceramics, clay, tile
Artistic Focus – Fred H. Robertson and his father, Alexander, were fifth- and sixth-generation potters who hold a significant place in the art pottery movement in the United States, and in Southern California in particular. Not merely following in his father’s footsteps, Fred H. Robertson distinguished himself by using native clays to produce graceful, wheel-thrown shapes with superb crystalline, crackle, matte and lustered glazes, as well as art tiles using a distinctive repertoire of soft color harmonies.
Career Highlights –
- Born in Massachusetts in 1869, Fred H. Robertson worked with his father, Alexander William Robertson, and Alexander’s brother Hugh Robertson at the family’s Chelsea Keramic Art Works and its successor, Dedham Pottery. Alexander eventually relocated to San Francisco, CA, where he founded the Roblin Art Pottery in 1898, named for Robertson and its co-founder, Linna Irelan.
- In 1903 Fred moved to California and joined his father at Roblin. Just three years later, Roblin Art Pottery was destroyed during the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, and Fred H. Robertson and his father, Alexander, moved to Los Angeles.
- In Los Angeles Alexander and Fred H. Robertson initially used the furnaces of Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company to fire their pottery creations. When Alexander moved on to work at other local firms, Fred H. Robertson remained at Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. as its superintendent.
- Fred also continued to work independently, founding a small art pottery studio known as “FHR Fred Robertson Los Angeles.”
- Robertson was included in an exhibition at Los Angeles’s Ebell Club in 1910, and at the city’s Blanchard Gallery under the auspices of the Ruskin Art Club in 1914.
- In 1921 Robertson, along with Gus Larson, left LA Pressed Brick to work for Claycraft Potteries Company, which had been established in Los Angeles that year. Fred was its general superintendent, focusing on the development of bodies and glazes.
- Fred’s son, George B. Robertson, joined Claycraft as a designer in 1925, and Claycraft’s body of work – including decorative tiles, garden pottery, fountains and lamp bases – is largely credited to the skill and attention of the two Robertsons.
- In 1934 Fred H. and his son George left Claycraft to form Robertson/Hollywood Pottery, making household pottery items as well as more decorative pieces, applying brightly colored glazes to traditional forms influenced by Chinese examples.
- Robertson/Hollywood Pottery closed upon Fred H. Robertson’s death in San Marino, California in 1952.
- Fred H. Robertson was one of the founders of the Ceramic Society of Southern California, and his ceramic work was included in the exhibitions “Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity, 1900-2000” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2000-2001 and “California Art Pottery” at the California State University Northridge Art Gallery in 1988. His work is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and in California in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.
Selection of Works by this Artist
Bibliographic references are available upon request.