Robert C. Turner (July 22, 1913 – July 26, 2005) was a painter-turned-potter who was recognized for his functional pottery and influential teaching. Influenced by different styles of pottery around the world, Turner took his inspiration and incorporated it into his own works, creating his own classic high-fired reduction pottery.
Turner received his BFA at Swarthmore College in 1936 and then attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where he studied painting but began to worry about his financial income to support his family, so he chose to learn pottery and received his MFA at Alfred University’s Fine Arts program (1946-1949).
After completing his education, Turner was asked to come to Black Mountain College to establish the school’s first ceramic program, where he taught until 1951. Turner returned to Alfred University where he established his own studio and focused on his pottery. By 1958, Turner began teaching at Alfred University as a ceramic and sculptor instructor and later served as a chairman for the Art Department and was granted emeritus upon his retirement.
By the 1950’s and 1960’s, Turner began to study other styles of pottery from different cultures, including Chinese, Greek, Japanese, and Scandinavian. He took these styles and began to create simple and functional wheel thrown pottery. Starting in the 1970’s, Turner turned to African sculpture for inspiration, and after a trip to Ghana and Nigeria, began to create unique and nonfunctional vessel forms. Limiting his range of style, Turner consistently made cone and cylinder shaped vessels and used simple hues such as reds, browns, whites, blues, and blacks for glazing.
During his career, Robert Turner received several awards including the Gold Medal from the American Craft Council Award, the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, “Potter of the Year” by the Philadelphia Art Alliance, and had his work accepted in the Ceramic National Exhibition, receiving honorable mention. His work can be found in permanent collections within the Smithsonian, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, along with other private and public collections.