Born Maria Longworth on March 20, 1849 to Joseph Longworth, Maria was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to perhaps the wealthiest family in the city of that time. Due to her comfortable upbringing, she was immersed in the fine arts at a young age and picked up hobbies like playing piano and painting. She married the American Civil War veteran Colonel George Ward Nichols in 1868, who had been hired by her family to catalog their vast collections of artwork. Mr. Nichols was eighteen years her elder. In 1871, Maria was responsible for planning and raising money for the now annually celebrated Cincinnati May Festival, making her the first female in history to found a music festival in the United States. The first festival was not held until 1873. This was also the year she began painting china.
In 1876 she attended the Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the first World's fair held in the United States. By now well along in her skill as a ceramics painter, she returned home to Cincinnati with an appreciation for Japanese art and began incorporating some of those elements into her own work.
In 1879, along with her friend and fellow ceramics painter Mary Louise McLaughlin, Maria commissioned the creation of an under-glaze and over-glaze kiln at a local pottery shop in Cincinnati. Maria was also having pieces of pottery created to her specifications locally, then painting them decoratively. That following year, Nichols founded the now famous Rookwood Pottery, the first woman from Cincinnati to own such a shop. Soon she employed a modest staff consisting of both men and women, including the potter and chemist named Joseph Bailey.
One of the first pieces made was the Aladdin Vase, and in 1882 Nichols won a gold medal at the Tenth Cincinnati Industrial Exposition for some of her works. In 1885 George Nichols died, and by March of the following year she was remarried to a lawyer named Bellamy Storer. In the wake of her first husband's death, Storer's output had lessened considerably. In 1889 she won a gold medal at the Paris Exposition, and that same year she handed her small company over to William W. Taylor (who incorporated the small factory).
Maria died on April 30, 1932 at the age of 83. her works are considered by collectors to have the highest level of interest.
Example of a famous "Aladdin" vase by Maria Nichols.
Example of a Maria Nichols artist mark "M.L.N."
Return to list of Rookwood Artists