A whimsical exhibition celebrating a unique period in British Victorian decorative arts will be on view at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art starting on July 10.
Their new Castles, Cottages and Crime display will unveil more than two dozen small ceramic structures from the museum’s permanent collection, along with several local loans and a new gift. (Most were made by Staffordshire potteries in England’s West Midlands in the mid-1800s and served to decorate British middle- and working-class homes.)
But here’s where it gets good: the ceramics are grouped in three categories. Some are imagined rural cottages embellished with graceful florals; some are based on actual castles dotting the English countryside; and several depict places where gruesome crimes occurred. These ceramics commemorate murder houses, where actual crimes were committed. (Go figure—sensational stories of true crime fascinated audiences even then.)
The ceramics—both ornamental and useful—were discovered by Nelson-Atkins’s deputy director of curatorial affairs, William Keyse Rudolph. He arrived at the museum in the spring of 2020 just as it was closing due to the pandemic. “This exhibition is what happens when a new curator goes digging in storage,” says Rudolph. “I love these little structures. They each have a fascinating story that I’m looking forward to sharing with our visitors.
The exhibition runs through March 6, 2022. For museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit nelson-atkins.org.