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This scarce, if not rare set of figures measure 8" high by 3.25" in diameter at the bases. They are modeled after the traditional presentation of George & Martha Washington in many porcelain models, familiar to many Americans. While this set likely dates to the 1940s, very little information is available online, and they are not shown in any of the Van Briggle or Colorado references as far as I have found. They are likely a 'Novelty' item. This set was acquired with a large Native American set of figures, that were also produced in the 1940s, and attributed to the Van Briggle modeler Nellie Walker, whose tenure at Van Briggle Pottery was during the 1940s, and apparently she left there in 1948 because of failing eyesight. I have included a bio for Walker below, whose stellar art career before Van Briggle Pottery is well documented. This set is covered with felt, which I did not remove because Martha is marked on the rear base with the cojoined AA's, veryifying their authenticity as Van Briggle Pottery. They are glazed in a handsome blue glaze, signature Van Briggle blue. This set is in original condition, no apologies.

Nellie Verne Walker (1874-1973) was born in Red Oak, Iowa and came to Moulton when she was less than a year old. Her father, Everett.A. Walker, was a stonecutter at his own monument works in Moulton. She learned to help her father cut the dates and names on the tombstones, as well as the baby lambs on the childrens’ stones, for the Oakland Cemetery west of Moul­­ton. Nellie was allowed to use her father’s tools and learned the feeling of working with stone in her father’ monument shop.
At age 17, she asked her father for a block of Bedford marble. Without instruction and working only from an engraving, she carved a head of Abraham Lincoln in 24 days. The bust was exhibited as part of the Iowa exhibit at the Columbian Exposition Fair in Chicago and won a prize. The bust is now on display in the Garrett Memorial Library in Moulton.
Unable to afford to go to art school, Nellie worked as a legal secretary for six years. With financial help from a family friend, she moved to Chicago in 1900 to begin study at the Chicago Art Institute with Lorado Taft. She later taught sculpture at the Institute for five years, and after 1909, maintained a studio at the Midway Art Studio near the University of Chicago. In Paris, France, she continued her studies and conducted sculptor’s studios.
Textbooks list Nellie as one of the most outstanding women sculptors in America. She stated “I like all the various things we do –portraits, monuments, fountains, reliefs, everything. But I do like them large rather than small.” A diminutive woman at four foot eight, and less than 100 pounds, Nellie seemed unlikely to be able to meet the physical demands placed on a sculptor. She became known as “the lady who lived on a ladder” because she preferred large works of art. She eschewed marriage and the traditional female role of the era.
In 1902, Colorado Springs reclusive millionaire W.S. Stratton died. Someone realized Nellie Walker was in town and asked her to make a death mask, which she did. The family was so impressed that they commissioned her to do a bust, followed by a large, carved granite cemetery marker and finally a statue of Stratton, larger than life. All are still in the Colorado Springs area.
Today her legacy includes many monuments, busts and bas reliefs. She has more than 50 major works scattered over the Midwest and in the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. Her statuette of an Angel “Benediction” is in the Moulton Methodist Church. Her statue of Chief Keokuk is in Rand Park in Keokuk.
Well known examples of her monuments include the statue of Senator James Harlan in the U.S. Capitol Building (1907), the Chief Keokuk Statue in Rand Park overlooking the Mississippi in Keokuk (1913), the Polish-American War memorial in Chicago (1927), the Suffrage Memorial panel in the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines (1934) and the Lincoln Monument at Vincennes, Indiana (1937).
Some of her architectural sculptures include life size figures of Friendship and of Character at Michigan League Building at Ann Arbor, Mich., the monumental figures of Moses and Socrates for the courthouse in Jackson, Miss. and the bas-relief sculptures at the Iowa State University Library at Ames.
For the bas-reliefs at the Iowa State Library, Nellie had to work on scaffolding after the stones had been put in place. She was assisted in much of the actual carving by the Swiss-born sculptor, J.G. Zimmerman.
The south panel depicted the curriculum for men students: engineering, science, veterinary medicine and science. The north panel showed the educational programs for women: art, home economics and literature.
A few of her many important cemetery works include the famous Stanton statue in Colorado Springs (1905), the Decker Memorial in Battle Creek, Mich. (1910), Diggins Monument in Cadillac, Mich. (1909), the Mitchell statue, also in Cadillac, Mich. (1916) and the Helen McMullen statue in Minneapolis, Minn. 1919)
Later in life, following the 1948 destruction of her Chicago studio, Nellie moved to Colorado Springs, Colo. where she modeled some pottery for the Van Briggle Pottery Company. She retired from the greater part of her work in 1948 because of failing eyesight.

Van Briggle Rare George & Martha Washington Figures c1940s

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