A Loss to the Newcomb Pottery Family

Dr. Jessie J. Poesch, considered one of the most renowned scholars of Newcomb Pottery, passed away April 23, 2011 at the age of 88 in New Orleans. It’s being reported by The Times Picayune that her death was a result of surgery complications. Referring to her as a “scholar blessed with unflagging curiosity”, William Ferris, a long time friend of Dr. Poesch, said “…she pioneered the field of Southern decorative arts”. Those closest to her acknowledge her impressive education and ability to speak easily on any number of topics and quickly say it’s her genuine personality and distinct kindness people will remember most. “Brilliance and personal warmth don’t always go together, but she combined them to a rare degree”.

Dr. Poesch arrived at Tulane in 1963 and was already considered a pioneer and historian of American art and architecture. The Iowan native graduated from Antioch College in Ohio, at which time she began work with the American Friends Service Committee in France and Germany following World War II. Still dedicated to the importance of education, Dr. Poesch, upon her arrival back to the states, then received her M.A. from the University of Delaware, followed by her Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania.

With her passion for American art pottery, Dr. Poesch made the decision to come south, where she taught History of Art at Newcomb College Art Department, part of Tulane University. It’s said she trained hundreds of students while there and even found time to chair the department between 1972 and 1977. In 1986, she was named to the Maxine and ford Graham Chair. Her official retirement in 1992 lent to an endowed art professorship that was established in her honor that same year.

Those who knew her say retirement was nothing but a word as she continued to move forward in her volunteer and research efforts. Sally Main, an author who collaborated with Dr. Poesch in 2003 as they penned a book on Newcomb Pottery, said, “She had other things to say”. And indeed she did.

Dr. Poesch will continue to live on in the hearts of those who knew and loved her. Her death is a loss to the entire Newcomb Pottery family.

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