Oral history interview with Ruth Duckworth

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.duckwo01
Creators:
Duckworth, Ruth, 1919-2009
Trapp, Kenneth R.
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America
Dates:
2001 April 27
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
67 Pages
Transcript
Repository:

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
An interview of Ruth Duckworth conducted 2001 April 27, by Kenneth R. Trapp, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, at the studios of Smithsonian Productions, Washington, D.C.
Scope and Contents
Duckworth speaks of her early life and the time prior to her family leaving Germany; the decision to leave Germany in 1936 due to Hitler and the War; acclimating herself to England; attending Liverpool School of Art; WWII in England and the psychological effects of working in munitions factories; her nervous breakdown and seven years of therapy; her beginning to sculpt; her first exhibition of sculpture in London; her marriage and life with Aidron; difficulties in being an outsider in the world of art, specifically speaking about being a woman in sculpture; her first meeting with Lucie Rie; the devastation she felt after her brother died; attendance at the Hammersmith School of Art and not feeling her place there; switching to Central School of Arts and Crafts; her first job teaching ceramics at the Central School; learning the technique of glazing; visiting museums in London; how poetry nourished her during those early years, specifically the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke; the selling of her first pieces, "pieces that wouldn't sell"; the art scene in London; how the opportunity at the University of Chicago arose; her experience at the University of Chicago, an academic institution rather than a fine arts school; her first big show in the U.S. at the University in 1965; her graduate and undergraduate students; life as a foreigner in the U.S.; the opportunity to teach at the University of Iowa but becoming an associate professor at the University of Chicago instead; the cultural movement and ceramics movement in the U.S. during the 1960's; how her work changed from European influences to American influences; departments in art that were very unfriendly to women; her association with James and Nan McKinnell; her excursions and teaching trips across the U.S. as well as in Canada and Israel; her trip with Aidron across the U.S. and then their eventual separation; her friendship with Alice Westphal and the creation of the gallery Exhibit A; the unconscious changes in her work; her views on stoneware versus porcelain; Jack Lenor Larsen's summer show and the artists she met through that; her relationship with American museums versus European; unfortunate events at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; her continued feelings as an outsider but acceptance in later life as an artist, more so from the ceramic community than from the museum community; publications and catalogues of her work; the influences other artists have had upon her work; the limited use of color in her work; her collection of bones; her love of gardening; her sketches; the therapy coiling clay does for her; her projects at the moment; where she gets her ideas from; how she sees herself fitting in versus not fitting in; her speech at an international symposium in Amsterdam; what she would include in a retrospective of her artwork; her hopes to have her work be therapeutic to viewers and cause them to contemplate it; more thoughts on color; American culture; what matters most to her right now and that is saving the Earth; wishing to continue with her work and have a better relationship with museums. Ruth Duckworth recalls, Henry Moore, Bernard Leach, Nellie Barr, Virginia Ferrari, Hardy Schlick, Richard DeVore, Nicholas Vergette, Jane Goodall and others.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Ruth Duckworth (1919-2009) was a sculptor and clay artist from Chicago, Illinois. Kenneth Trapp (1943- ) is curator-in-charge at the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery.

Administration
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.

General
General
Originally recorded on 2 DAT tapes. Reformatted in 2010 as 2 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hr., 29 min.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Ceramics -- Study and teaching Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ceramics -- Technique Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ceramicists -- Illinois -- Chicago -- Interviews Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mental illness -- Treatment Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sculptors -- Illinois -- Chicago -- Interviews Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women potters -- Illinois -- Chicago Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women sculptors -- Illinois -- Chicago Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
World War, 1939-1945 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sound recordings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
DeVore, Richard, 1933-2006 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Larsen, Jack Lenor Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Leach, Bernard, 1887- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
McKinnell, James Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
McKinnell, Nan Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Moore, Henry, 1898-1986 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rie, Lucie Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Vergette, Nicholas, 1923-1974 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Westphal, Alice Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Central School of Arts and Crafts (Birmingham, England) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
University of Chicago -- Faculty Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/