George E. Ohr Pottery

A significant name and pioneer within the art world, George E. Ohr's work was overlooked during his time but now sells for tens of thousands of dollars. Ohr's unique work can also be found at the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and his own honorary museum, the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art.

Learn more about the significance of Ohr's work, why his pottery is so valuable, how to identify real pieces from fake and more in our guide below.

History of George E. Ohr

George Edgar Ohr is known as America's first art potter and a significant pioneer of ceramics in the United States. Born in Mississippi in 1857, Ohr was the son of two German immigrants. Ohr's father was a blacksmith and taught him the trade early on. Ready for work, 14-year-old Ohr moved to New Orleans, where he tried 19 different jobs before being offered a pottery apprenticeship.

Ohr fell in love with the profession, and after his apprenticeship, he embarked on a two-year 16-state tour of American potteries to learn everything he possibly could about the craft. Later, Ohr returned to his hometown Biloxi, Mississippi, to open his own pottery shop known as Biloxi Art and Novelty Pottery.

As an eccentric man himself, Ohr's pottery was unique and unconventional. His shop, full of beautiful and eccentric pieces, soon became an established tourist attraction. People wanted to see Ohr's beautiful work, and they wanted to watch the strange-looking man and his entertaining methods of creating his pottery. Ohr became known as "The Mad Potter of Biloxi.” Ohr received a Silver Medal for most original art pottery at the Louisiana Purchase International Exposition in 1904, and his work garnered praise from various ceramic critics, potters and journals.

However, while people admired and appreciated Ohr's work, they were not willing to pay the prices he demanded. Refusing to sell his pottery for less than he felt he deserved, Ohr retired from pottery in 1909 and packed away his thousands of unsold creations. His sons later turned his pottery shop into the town's first auto repair shop. Ohr died of cancer in 1918 — 50 years before his work received the acclaim he had always dreamed of.

What Makes George E. Ohr's Pottery Valuable?

George Ohr knew his pottery was worth artistic acclaim, but what makes George Ohr's work so special? Ohr's unique glazes, paper-thin pottery and unconventional designs all contribute to his piece's current value.

Ohr claimed that all of his handmade pottery was one of a kind. Additionally, each piece has a unique shape and color combination. Ohr's pottery glazes are a valuable selling point as well. Ohr had a secret formula he used to invent many of the glazes he applied to his creations. Then, after 1903, he chose not to use glazes at all.

Ohr's unconventional choices also apply to the shapes he created. A lot of his work can be best described as looking squished, having crumpled rims and long handles, or being folded. Unlike other potters at the time, Ohr purposely manipulated the wet clay through twisting, folding and ruffling to create perfectly-imperfect designs. Also, unlike his fellow potters, Ohr was able to make pottery that was paper thin. No one else came close to mastering this delicate form of pottery.

Ohr's unmatched talent and eccentric designs make his rare pieces highly desired — and therefore valuable — to present-day collectors and art enthusiasts.

George E. Ohr's Pottery Styles

At the beginning of Ohr's pottery career, he focused on creating utilitarian pieces that he could sell to support his family. These pieces can be described as ornamental and rustic — quite different from the descriptions of his later work. In his early career, Ohr worked with childhood friend Joseph Fortuné Meyer. While Ohr's work during this time period was well done, it is not the eccentric and innovative work that he is known for.

Even though Ohr's early work was popular with tourists and locals alike, Ohr wanted to do more with his skills. George E. Ohr was not afraid to experiment with shapes, colors and designs when it came to his pottery work, so he shifted his focus to creating these unique and unusual pieces.

He would often create unorthodox color schemes by mixing drab hues such as gray or olive with vibrant colors like orange and red. Later on, he also created pieces without his signature secret glaze. These unglazed bisque pots are recognized as Ohr's most abstract and sculptural work.

How to Tell Whether a George E. Ohr Piece Is Real or Fake

While the best way to confirm if a George E. Ohr piece is real or fake is to speak to an expert who can verify authenticity, there are a few ways you can identify a real Ohr piece on your own.

You can feel confident a George E. Ohr piece is real by identifying the following:

  • Ohr's name stamp or signature: The George Ohr pottery signature is the first indicator you have an authentic Ohr piece. This marking can be either a stamped impression that reads “G. E. OHR, BILOXI, MISS,” or it may be an engraved signature. However, scammers in recent years have begun to imitate the signature George Ohr pottery mark, so you may want to have an expert, such as a respected auction house, confirm the piece's authenticity.
  • The piece's thickness: Ohr is known for his paper-thin, delicate pottery. So, if a piece seems thick, it may indicate an imposter piece.
  • The glaze's texture and appearance: As Ohr made his own unique glazes, his work usually contains small flaws in the glaze. These multicolored and irregular glazes are what make Ohr pottery so valuable.
  • The piece's originality: Ohr was extremely adamant that he would not make two pieces the same. Real Ohr pottery is truly one of a kind. If a seller has multiple of the same or very similar pieces, the pottery is most likely fake.

Find Authentic George E. Ohr Pieces at Fontaine's Auction Gallery

George E. Ohr pottery is loved among collectors and art enthusiasts and for a good reason. The beautiful, delicate and unique designs of Ohr pottery can not be replicated, making these pieces extremely valuable. So, when investing in an Ohr piece, you want to ensure you are buying from a reputable seller.

At Fontaine's Auction Gallery, we verify the authenticity and condition of all of our pieces, so you can confidently shop our George Ohr pottery auction or any other auctions we offer. Our team has extensive industry and market knowledge to bring you the highest quality service and products. Attend an in-person auction at one of our gallery locations or participate in our exceptional auctions from anywhere in the world.

Let our skilled team know how we can assist you, and contact us today.