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 Harrison McIntosh  (1914 - )

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: pottery-ceramic abstraction

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Harrison McIntosh
An example of work by Harrison McIntosh
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is an exhibition review of work by Harrison McIntosh at the American Museum of Ceramic Art.

Harrison McIntosh: A Timeless Legacy

by Vicki Hardin on August 22, 2009

Pomona, CA, AMOCA presents Harrison McIntosh: A Timeless Legacy, from September 12 through January 9, 2010. The exhibition will be open to the public on Saturday, September 12, 2009 from 12 – 9 p.m. during the second Saturday Art Walk in the Pomona Art Colony. The same evening McIntosh will celebrate his 95th birthday and AMOCA’s 5th anniversary at the home of AMOCA founders, Julianne and David Armstrong. There AMOCA will host a gala celebration and birthday dinner party featuring Harrison McIntosh and wife Marguerite in person from 6-9pm.

AMOCA presents this retrospective exhibition to honor the life and ceramic artwork of Harrison McIntosh, one of the best-known ceramic artists of the Pomona Valley and leader in the post-World War II Southern California crafts movement. Along with the history, culture, and lifestyle of this era, the exhibition features Harrison’s beautifully crafted ceramic pottery and sculpture, recognized for its precision, perfect proportions, repetitive lines, and subtle, decorative graphic elements. ?McIntosh’s introduction to ceramics included study with Glen Lukens, Marguerite Wildenhain, and Richard Petterson. These educators touted the fine art of craft, with emphasis on technique, design, and mastery of glazing skills. Marguerite Wildenhain, trained at the Bauhaus, insisted on strict methodological performance from her students, and Richard Petterson (Scripps College), intrigued by the Mingei folk art movement of Japan, introduced McIntosh to the traditions and aesthetic views of the East.

Armed with these principles, McIntosh, along with fellow potter Rupert Deese, established a studio in nearby Claremont. While some ceramic artists of that time went on to follow the more extreme choice of abstract-expressionist ceramic art, McIntosh chose to pursue vessel-oriented forms, concentrating on craftsmanship and fine design. McIntosh stayed true to his personal vision, grounded in the vessel format with an unpretentious approach that can only happen when the potter is so familiar with the practice, so adept at the process, and so in tune with automatic actions that a higher form of intuitive response takes over. There is no need for force or control because the body knows the way. Simply put, McIntosh’s mode of spontaneity is the antithesis of artifice.

This exhibition is accompanied by a 100-page, full-color, hard-bound catalog highlighting his life and works, replete with essays by Christy Johnson, AMOCA Director, Martha Longenecker, Founder of the Mingei International Museum, and Marguerite McIntosh, Founder of the Claremont Museum of Art.

In evaluating the accomplishments of Harrison McIntosh, it is helpful to place his ceramic career in context by elucidating the complex social, economic, and political factors that intersected in post-World War II Southern California. This was a time when returning soldiers, European war refugees, and job seekers flocked to the Los Angeles area in search of opportunity, a favorable climate, and promises of prosperity. The influx of people set the stage for an unprecedented housing boom that included tract-home construction; Modern design preferences; new, industrial-strength hi-tech materials; a casual life style; and inside/outside living areas. The comforts of home and family ushered in an era of conservative values, conformity, and a sense of optimism. And, as the middle-class population mushroomed, materialism and consumerism flourished.

At the time, architecture was greatly influenced by progressive European building models, Bauhaus design concepts, advanced technology, and Southern California’s need for immediate and affordable housing. These factors translated into a comparatively austere and streamlined building style, suitable for the warm climate and casual outdoor activities. Appropriate to the small-scale houses, architects compensated for the lack of actual space by creating the illusion of roominess through visual artifices. There was nothing East Coast about the style; nothing ostentatious, traditional, or classic; no heirlooms or antiques. The focus was on materials. Clean, squared lines abounded, glass walls erased boundaries, natural materials combined with molded plastics, and angular metal elements characterized the interiors; and, as if to add balance, hand-crafted accessories found their way into the mix. Blank walls, exposed beams, and bare surfaces provided ideal display spaces for woodworking, weaving, copper enamel, glass, and especially ceramics.

The establishment of a “California Look” was sold nationwide. Magazines such as House Beautiful, under the leadership of Elizabeth Gordon, picked up on the hot, new style with articles on designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, George Nakashima, Sam Maloof, and Harrison McIntosh. Arts and Architecture magazine used “Case-Study-Houses” to display ways that the Modern home could be constructed and furnished. Other venues such as the Pan Pacific Auditorium, the California Design shows at the Pasadena Art Museum, and the Los Angeles County Fair followed suit, arranging room vignettes with contemporary choices to serve as inspiration for new homeowners of the Southland. Seemingly a dichotomy, but combined in a manner that worked, the setups included both manufactured, industrial-looking furnishing, and hand-crafted objects. The Los Angeles Times Home magazine included articles on and images of architecture, gardens, fixtures, and arts and crafts. The entire region was rich with designers, architects, landscapers, and craftsmen eager to satisfy the new demand. The time and circumstances were right, so Harrison McIntosh and fellow potter and friend Rupert Deese set up their first studio in a stone building on Foothill Boulevard in Claremont in 1954 with the intention of becoming full-time potters.

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Castello, American Art Collection, Taos, New Mexico:

Harrison McIntosh was born in 1914 in Vallejo, California. He studied ceramics at the University of Southern California and the Claremont Graduate University near Los Angeles. McIntosh has worked as a professional studio potter in Claremont since the mid-1950s, supplementing his studio sales with designs of ceramic and glass wares for such large factories as the Japanese company Mikasa.

McIntosh's work has been exhibited in museums throughout North America, including the Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His work is also represented in museum collections in Europe and Japan and such American museum collections as the American Craft Museum, New York; and the Oakland Museum, California.

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