Hope Baldwin McCormick
'Hope McCormick should have been named Thalia after the Muse of Comedy,' wrote the respected ceramics dealer and scholar Emily (Millie) Manheim in her introduction to her catalogue, Selections from The Hope McCormick Collection of Staffordshire Pottery (privately printed, Chicago, 1980). 'One of the outstanding features of her personality was her marvelous sense of humour and her penchant for the absurd.'
Mrs. Brooks McCormick, who died in 1993, will also be remembered for her many civic activities in Chicago and beyond. She was Chairman of the Woman's Board of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She served on the boards of the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Museum of Science and Industry. She was a member of the Illinois General Assembly and of the Republican National Committee.
In 1952, a chance visit to London's prestigious Grosvenor House Antiques Fair brought her face to face with Obadiah Sherratt's Staffordshire pottery masterworks, 'The Death of Munrow' and 'The Roaring Lion.' And as Manheim wrote: 'Although the first group commemorated a tragedy, the amiable expression on the grey bewhiskered countenance of the tiger and mild toothy look of 'The Roaring Lion' sent her into peals of laughter.'
This experience captured her imagination. Armed with good guidance, an experienced eye for fine art and her copy of Cyril Earle's The Earle Collection of Early Staffordshire Pottery (London, 1915) - which is among the focused library of 100 or so ceramics books also offered in the sale - she began a lifelong process of assembling one of the finest Staffordshire pottery collections known.
There is a delightfully endearing quality about these models. They are rough and crude peasant wares but they offer a witty look at another era. They use an economy of means to demonstrate a wealth of charm and whimsy. A wide variety of subjects is represented in the collection, including a veritable zoo of animals, a selection of table groups illustrating the foibles and manners of the 18th and 19th centuries, a host of saints and mythological figures, courting couples, literary scholars and a folly or two.