Exceptional in medium, historical significance, and brilliance, the Adler Pewter Collection was generously donated to the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in 1991 by Dr. Justin and Herta Adler. The Adlers were born and raised in Germany where pewter was commonly used in private homes as tableware and cherished pewter objects were handed down from generation to generation.
Pewter was first made in Roman times as a metal alloy composed of tin to which a small amount of copper was added. Later, other hard metallic elements such as bismuth and antimony were added for durability and strength. During the Renaissance, pewter was often used by the wealthy as tableware and by the clergy as religious objects. Imported from Europe to America in colonial times, pewter enjoyed great popularity in the New World and became the primary utilitarian ware in the colonies.
Pewter styles often mimicked styles found in other media, such as porcelain and silver, but many pewter pieces were original creations. During the Art Nouveau period of the early twentieth century, pewter evolved from a means of serving everyday food and drink into a medium for artistic expression with elaborate organic shapes and floral motifs that typified art of that period.
The Adler Pewter collection spans four hundred years, from the seventeenth through the early twentieth centuries and includes nearly four hundred pewter objects from Europe, America, and Asia. The objects in the collection are displayed according to use or style, such as drinking vessels, tableware, coffee and tea ware, decorative and ecclesiastical pewter, and Art Nouveau works. The extensive scope of the collection is a reminder of the important role pewter played in daily life for hundreds of years.