In 1972, Kathleen and Arthur Postle presented their Overbeck pottery collection to the Cambridge City Public Library in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Ressler, Kathleen’s parents. This gift and the library’s collection formed the nucleus of the Overbeck Museum. This collection depends upon the public for tax-deductible gifts of Overbeck artwork and memorabilia. Each item is appraised, insured, cataloged and made available for public viewing. It is most appropriate that this distinctive collection be seen in Cambridge City, the home of the Overbeck sisters.
In Cambridge City, Indiana, in 1911, four sisters established the Overbeck Pottery in their home. At a time when most pottery was copied from European and Japanese art, they believed that “borrowed art is dead art.” The majority of their work stemmed from their surroundings and included painted porcelain, red ware, important vases, Art Nouveau and Art Deco, and figurines modeled after real-life persons or “grotesques”-- which Mary called the “humor of the kiln.” They were especially noted for their subtle hues in matte glaze, as well as brilliant turquoise and heliotrope in bright glaze. The glaze formulas were never divulged. It is believed the formulas are in the possession of their nephew’s family.
From its inception, Overbeck Pottery has been held in high esteem. Awards were won in Paris, Chicago, New York, Syracuse, Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit and in Indiana on a regular basis. Awards were also won at the Panama Pacific Exposition. In recent years, growing groups of museum curators, art schools and collectors have developed a full realization of the artistry of Overbeck Pottery. It has earned an important place in the history of American art and has been exhibited at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Wayne County Art Museum. In 1990, the Los Angeles, CA, Museum of Art featured a prize Overbeck vase in their exhibition. In 1987-88, Overbeck Pottery was awarded national recognition by the Museum of Fine Arts’ Boston-sponsored exhibit, “The Art That is Life;” The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920. A vase in our collection – pictured on the front of this brochure – was chosen as an example of originality in early American pottery and was exhibited in the Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York art museums. The modest, genteel Overbeck sisters would be astounded at the fame they have achieved.
Ida (1861-1946) - The eldest, Ida opened a successful photography studio in Cambridge City. Married to Martin Funk, wheelwright and woodcarver, Ida was the only sister to marry.
Margaret (1863-1911) - The catalyst in establishing the pottery, she functioned as a teacher as well as an accomplished artist. She studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy, and trained with Frank Duveneck as well as other well-known artists. She taught art in private schools in Kentucky and Missouri, then DePauw University before returning home to help found Overbeck Pottery.
Hannah (1870-1931) - Attended Cincinnati Art Academy and Indiana State University. She was the “ultimate designer,” a perfectionist in sketching and in watercolors. Listed in the American Arts Manual, her drawings were featured in Keramic Studio, a magazine for china painters. She taught school before returning home in poor health. Though bed-ridden with severe neuritis, she continued to design by having the pencil placed in her fingers.
Harriet (1872-1951) - An accomplished musician, Harriet trained in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Leipzig, Germany. She played piano, organ and violin, gave private lessons and directed choirs. A proficient linguist, she spoke French, German, and Italian fluently. During the busy years of the pottery, Harriet kept house for her sisters.
Elizabeth (1875-1936) - “The ultimate potter,” Elizabeth studied with Margaret in early years and later at the College for Ceramics in New York with noted ceramist, Professor Charles Binns. As a teacher and lecturer, Elizabeth exhibited widely, bringing much honor and recognition to the pottery. Listed in American Arts Annual and Who’s Who in American Art, in 1936 she was awarded the highest honor as a ceramist, being named a Fellow in the American Ceramic Society.
Mary Francis (1878-1955) - Mary studied with Margaret and attended the Cincinnati Art Academy, Indiana State University and Columbia University. She taught for a time before joining her sisters at the pottery. A talented designer, Mary excelled in a wide range of art. She sold original bookplates, sculpted, and painted in oils and watercolors in addition to the vases, pottery and figurines. She was listed in the American Arts annual as well as Who’s Who in American Art. To amuse children visiting the Cambridge City Public Library, Mary made the pirate ship, “Don Quixote.”
Charles Borger (1881-1913) - The only son and youngest Overbeck, Charles graduated from Purdue University, became an engineer and had two children, Charles and Virginia, whose descendants are the remaining members of the Overbeck family. (Look for Charles and Virginia, as children, in one of the museum’s paintings by Mary.)
The Cambridge City Public Library and the Overbeck Museum were featured in a recent PBS episode of Journey Indiana that originally aired on March 21st, 2019. The episode featured interviews with Leah Huddleston, along with Jerry and Phyllis Matthias regarding the Overbeck sisters and their art. The full episode can also be viewed at PBS.org. The section about the Overbeck sisters begins at the 11 minute mark.