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Red Wing’s Short-Lived Run of Charles Murphy’s Chromoline Hand-Painted Pottery

by Ron Linde (08/22/11).

Both of these experimental M3006 vases are examples of Charles Murphy’s Chromoline hand-painted Red Wing art pottery creations and are likely one-of-a-kind. The one on the left is on display in the Schleich Pottery Museum in Lincoln, Neb. The other is in a private collection.

Red Wing designer Charles Murphy worked during the post-World War II period from around 1948 to 1964 often described as the Eames Era of Modern Design.* Artists of the time often portrayed a vision of the future in sweeping lines and shapes with bold, distinctive styling. This era was named for husband and wife furniture designers Charles and Ray Eames, who believed well-designed goods should be available to all. Stylings of the Eames Era were apparent in period architecture, automobiles, lighting, household appliances, and yes, pottery. Murphy’s Chromoline hand-painted art pottery is one such example.

Murphy usually used one glaze color to cover his art pottery designs, but not so with this line. These labor-intensive pieces were decorated with circular bands of various glaze colors. Murphy’s distinctive line first appeared in the Red Wing Art Pottery Catalog in the fall 1960. Back then, all 15 shapes from the Chromoline hand-painted line could be purchased for a combined $78, but today you’re lucky to find one piece at that price. Each of the 15 shapes also appeared in the Red Wing art pottery catalogs in the spring and fall of 1961.

Almost all pieces of Red Wing art pottery are marked on the bottom with a shape number. Chromoline is no exception. Shapes 671-687 includes covered candy dishes, vases, compotes, candlesticks and ash trays. In addition to these items, a tall, 16-inch bottle vase (M3006 or 3006) provided a great surface for the circular bands.

Shapes not included in this sequence of decorated Chromoline items are shape numbers 677, 679 and 683. Shape 677 is a longstanding flower pot shape, shape 679 is a tall vase and shape 683 is currently not known. The Schleich Red Wing Museum in Lincoln, Neb. displays one unusual Chromoline item in the blue and yellow glaze. Likely a trial piece, it’s shaped like the 687 vase, but at just a shade taller than 18 inches, it’s more than three inches taller and has no shape number.

The smooth surfaces used on this line were glazed with vivid colors. The Red Wing art pottery catalogs listed the Chromoline hand-painted shapes as available in the following colors only: 502 rust & green, 503 blue & yellow. The Schleich Museum has an experimental 3006 vase in gray, pink and rust glazes and another experimental 3006 vase exists in blue and pink glazes.

During an interview before his death in 1994, Murphy described the line: “Before firing, the pieces were spun on a wheel, and as they were spun, the decorator would hold a brush laden with glaze to create a ring on these pieces. This process was repeated many times.”

Red Wing designer Charles Murphy’s Chromoline (and original prices): 678—6” candleholders, $5 pair; 680—bowl, 8” across, $3.50; 681—bowl, 10” across, $5.

Chromoline (and original prices): 676—compote, 10” across, $6; 675—compote, 8” across, $4.50; 684—ash tray, 10”, $5; 685—ash tray, 8”, $3.50.

Chromoline (and original prices): 672—candy dish, 5½” high, $6; 671—candy dish, 7” high, $5; 686—12” vase, $6; 687—15” vase, $8.

Chromoline (and original prices): 3006—16” vase, $7; 682—13” vase, $5; 674—10” footed vase, $5; 673—8” footed vase, $3.50. (photos courtesy of RWCS Newsletter Editor Rick Natynski)

 

Here a 15-inch #687 vase is pictured next to the only known 18-inch Chromoline vase, which is shaped just like its smaller counterpart. (photos courtesy of curators Steve and Rose Splittgerber)

This #682 Stereoline vase saw limited production in 1962.

The time required for producing each piece and the increasing competition from foreign competition likely contributed to limited Chromoline production. After only one year of production, the line is not shown in any other Red Wing catalogs, although Chromoline shapes (with the exception of the ash trays and bowls) were done in solid glaze colors and placed in the Stereoline grouping for one listing in the Red Wing Art Pottery Catalog, Spring 1962.

With his use of bold circles of color on modernist shapes, designer Charles Murphy’s impressive Chromoline hand-painted line embodied the designs and stylings of the Eames Era.

*Charles Murphy was a designer at the Red Wing Potteries between 1940 and 1949, and then again from 1953 until the Potteries closed in 1967. He worked at Stetson Potteries in Illinois from 1949-1953.

Ron Linde is a member of the Red Wing Collectors Society.

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