The under-appreciation of E.T. Hurley

The painted ceramic works of E.T. Hurley (1869-1950) are immediately recognizable, and equally sought after by Rookwood Pottery collectors and enthusiasts worldwide. Interestingly, it was the artistic works Hurley composed outside pottery that won him international attention and acclaim during his lifetime.

hurleyfour.jpgNative to Cincinnati, Ohio, Edward Timothy Hurley studied at the Art Academy of Cincinnati under Frank Duveneck, where he became a skilled drypoint etcher. He joined Rookwood Pottery as a decorator in 1896, but continued to produce his own work outside the pottery.

Hurley Etching #192, Creek and Birch Trees in Winter, part of the Treadway Galllery collection.

Throughout his lifetime, Hurley composed hundreds of etchings. They were highlights of scenic views of Cincinnati including downtown landmarks, the shoreline of the Ohio River, bustling outdoor markets, and the climbing rooftops of Mount Adams. Hurley produced more than 300 etchings; many of these poetic scenes were gathered into widely distributed published collections.

Hurley won international praise for his printed works. His work was listed in the renowned French artist index, the Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs Benezit, and exhibited at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. hurleyfive.jpgHe was an active member of the Cincinnati Society of Etchers, the Society of American Etchers, the Ohio Print Makers and other prominent artist guilds.

Hurley etching #164, Creek Scene, part of the Treadway Gallery collection.

A curious experimenter, Hurley was inventive with his printmaking processes and his materials. He created, patented and sold “Hurley Crayons,” an oil pastel stick that could be used directly on the plate and would prevent the acid from cutting through. Advertised in International Studio magazine, and supplied to local schools and art supply shops, the crayons were produced by the artist from 1916 to 1935. He also devised and sold the “Hurley” black etching ground, which required no smoking and resulted in a print with a glossy, ebony blank surface.

hurleytwo.jpgAlong with his printed work, Hurley produced and exhibited additional two-dimensional work including chalk and oil pastels and watercolors. He also sculpted and cast numerous decorative bronze pieces.

Vellum vase, with the Kilgours Woods artwork by Hurley, which sold for $3,500 in June 2007.

Today it is Hurley’s decorated Rookwood pottery, rather than his etchings, bronzes or pastels that attract current collectors. Although Hurley used many of his own etchings as models for Rookwood plaques and vessels, yet it is the copy, not the original image, which brings more at auction.

hurleyone.jpgA beautifully detailed E.T. Hurley etching, entitled Kilgours Woods from 1913, featuring a crisp wooded landscape, recently sold at auction for a modest $375. Earlier this year, a 12-inch Rookwood vase decorated by Hurley with a similar scene sold for $3,500 at auction.

Kilgours Woods etching #261, $375 at auction in September 2007.

An excellent Rookwood plaque decorated by Hurley recently sold at Treadway Gallery’s 20th Century Art & Design, in September 2007, for $5,000. It featured a beautiful woodland scene with a creek running through the center of the composition. An impressive collection of etchings from the artist’s direct descendants acquired by the gallery features two prints that virtually mimic major elements of the plaque landscape. Yet their conservative $500-$1,000 price does not compare to the sale price of the plaque.

Perhaps one reason for this difference in price is that Hurley’s painted ceramic work is considered unique or one of a kind, whereas his printed works were reproduced, albeit in small numbers. hurleythree.jpgAnother may be the overall trend of buyers who are turning away from two-dimensional pieces, such as paintings and works on paper or more decorative objects such as pottery, glass and metal work.

Hurley plaque, Creek #30, sold at Treadway in September 2007.

Sketches, drawings and etchings of many collectible artists are again beginning to attract new and seasoned buyers. Due to their conservative price, collectors and admirers of artists like E.T. Hurley can easily enhance the scope and strength of their collection through the purchase of these relatively inexpensive and enjoyable works.

An extensive collection of some of E.T. Hurley’s finest etchings, pastels and drawings is available for viewing online, via the exhibitions link, at Contact the gallery for purchasing information.