The Boehm Birds: An Edward Marshall Boehm Collection

Banner featuring a ceramic sculpture of two Verdins perched on a plant by Boehm.

History of the Boehm Collection

Photograph of Mrs Edward Boehm at a reception at the Health Science CenterThe Dolph Briscoe Jr. Library houses a collection of fine porcelain sculptures created by world renowned artist and sculptor Edward Marshall Boehm. The 15 Boehm sculptures were donated to the University of Texas Health Science Center by Mrs. Edward Marshall Boehm on January 26, 1973. A reception honoring Mrs. Boehm on the occasion of the presentation of the gift was held in the Auditorium Foyer on September 7, 1973. The sculptures were originally placed in the President’s suite and in the auditorium, but were moved to the Briscoe Library in 1997 at the suggestion of Dr. Virginia Bowden, Library Director, when one of the birds was damaged in their previous location. The Briscoe Library is fortunate to house and display these sculptures; they can be found in various locations in the library.

 

View the Boehm Birds

 

Edward Marshall Boehm: Biography of an Artist

Black and white photograph of Edward Marshall BoehmEdward Marshall Boehm was born in Baltimore and orphaned at the age of seven. He showed some artistic ability at an early age, but it was not until after World War II that he was drawn to the art of sculpture which would be his vocation. Working in a convalescent home for returning soldiers, he first picked up a ball of clay and realized that this would be his medium. Before the war, he had had some success as a cattle breeder, and it was his familiarity with animals and his eye for their structural composition that contributed to his skill with sculpting animals. He was attracted to the art of porcelain sculpture and, after visiting some porcelain factories in Trenton, New Jersey, became determined to set up his own factory. In the basement of his home, he developed a formula for an excellent porcelain and began producing sculptures. His wife, Helen, became his distributor, sales manager, and public relations voice, but the pervasive prejudice against American-made porcelain which existed at the time was difficult to overcome, and they struggled, their finances dwindling. Their breakthrough came in 1951, when the Curator of the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York purchased two statues for the museum’s collection, thus giving an authoritative endorsement of Boehm’s art. Still, it was not until 1955 that Boehm’s company really began to grow. By the time of Edward Marshall Boehm’s death in 1969, he had seen his porcelains placed in the permanent collections of many of the world’s most important museums and galleries. Today one can view Boehm’s sculptures in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hermitage, the Smithsonian, and the Tokyo National Museum. In 1992, a wing in the Vatican Museum of Art in Rome was named in memory of Edward Marshall Boehm; he was the first American to receive that honor.

Bibliography

Fine Porcelain Creation

The name “porcelain” was given to translucent vitrified stoneware in China by the explorer Marco Polo in the 13th century. He thought that it resembled a certain seashell named genus porcellana because of its high gloss and translucency. Porcelain is made up of a high temperature (2400° F) fusion of fine white clay and feldspar. To make a sculpture like the Boehm birds, the figure is first modeled in clay or wax. A mold is made from the figure (or many molds in the case of complex figures) and a cast is made by pouring the fine porcelain mixture into it. After the lining of this mold has hardened, the liquid center is poured out, and the mold is removed. At this time if the model was made in sections, the sections are assembled, and fine details are added by hand. The figure is placed in a kiln for twelve to 24 hours, then cooled for three days. At this time it is in its “bisque” state, and may be colored and then glazed, if desired.

Bibliography
  • Cosentino, F. J. (1960). Boehm’s Birds : the Porcelain Art of Edward Marshall Boehm. New York: Frederick Fell, Inc.
  • Duffy, M. (1971, May-June). Of Clay & Fire : Conservation in Ceramics. Louisiana Conservationist Magazine.

Photograph of a ceramic sculpture of a roadrunner created by Boehm

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