by Marbeth Schon

Newcomb Art Gallery
Tulane University, New Orleans

The current venue of the traveling exhibit "Maestros de Plata, William Spratling and Mexico's Silver Renaissance" is the beautiful Newcomb Art Gallery at Tulane University in New Orleans. The show runs through May 23rd. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5  and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5.
Though New Orleans is not known as the Mecca of Mexican silver, it is fitting that Tulane University should host  this superb exhibition that bears the name of Spratling. In the 1920s, at the age of 22, William Spratling came to New Orleans to teach architecture at Tulane University.

William Spratling, Jaguar brooch
 silver and tortoise shell

Within the Bohemian dwellings of the French Quarter, Spratling made the acquaintance of many artists including Conrad Albrizio and Caroline Durieux. Journalists and writers, Natalie Vivian Scott, Sherwood Anderson and William Faulkner became his friends. With Faulkner, Spratling shared a French Quarter apartment and illustrated the satirical book "Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles."   The book,  "Plantation Houses of Louisiana" by Natalie Scott, is also handsomely illustrated with drawings by Spratling.

Illustration by Spratling for "Plantation Houses in Louisiana"

In 1926, Spratling went to Mexico City to teach summer classes to visiting Americans who, at that time, were able to spend six weeks studying with Mexican "archaeologists, architects and artists like Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and David Alfaro Siqueriros."1 The students were encouraged to take field trips to Taxco and it was on one of these trips that Spratling became indelibly fascinated with the beauty and ancient culture of the town and its people.

By 1931, he had given up his teaching position in New Orleans and settled permanently in Taxco where he began to design silver jewelry based on pre-Columbian Aztec motifs. 

Spratling's workshop, the Taller de las Delicias, and his brilliant use of Aztec motifs in silver design became the touchstones for the silver industry in Taxco that influenced innumerable silversmiths who were his contemporaries and who came later. 

William Spratling Jaguar Necklace
silver & amethyst

The magnificent oeuvre of William Spratling, as well as that of other artisans who were influenced by Spratling, is contained in this exhibition and, together with the history and techniques of Mexican silver making, is artfully presented in the exquisitely illustrated catalog published by Abrams, "William Spratling and the Mexican Silver Renaissance"  (available at the exhibition and also online at 

William Spratling Hands Buckle
silver & tortoise shell

If you are planning a trip to New Orleans, don't miss the opportunity to see this exceptional presentation of Mexican silver at Tulane's  Newcomb Art Gallery.

Admission is free.

For information call: 504-865-5328

Newcomb Art Gallery

Quote: Penny Morrill, from " No Luster Lost," by Doug MacCash, Times Picayune, New Orleans, April 13, 2004



Article by Marbeth Schon
Photographs by Marbeth Schon and courtesy of and Jill Crawford
Web design by Marbeth Schon  
 Copyright 2004 Modern Silver Magazine

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