The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York has acquired a superb collection of French ceramics – dating from 1880 – 1910, brought together by Robert A. Ellison Junior to celebrate three decades of modernism.
Making Pottery Art: The Robert A. Ellison Jr. Collection of French Ceramics (ca.1880 – 1910) will be on display for the first time from February 4th – August 18th, 2014
Mr Ellison first started collecting his wares during the 1960’s seeking only the highest quality examples by the greatest artist-potters of a period in art and design history when the modern age in art and design was being clearly defined.
Architects and artisans across all disciplines of the arts wanted to concentrate solely on geometry, uninterrupted lines and form.
Simplicity and sincerity became hallmarks of style, finding inspiration in Japanese stoneware’s and in the forms, glazes and techniques associated with the very best wares of Chinese Porcelain and pottery.
The revolutionary artist-potters embraced artisanal traditions while pursuing and being emboldened by lost techniques reaffirmed through exhaustive experimentation.
Added to that was the appreciation and appeal of salt-glazed stoneware’s from the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe when Gothic art was at its height, and you suddenly arrived that a new type of ceramic, one considered entirely modern and new.
It was all about the natural world providing a major stimulus for design inspiration and a new regard for intellectual and emotional endeavour, which is associated with the tenets of the Art Nouveau style (1890 – 1910).
The new design style was already writhing its way through Europe from France and the shared enthusiasm among young artist-craftsmen reached fever pitch they gradually achieved their goal, for that of being recognised as avant-garde ceramicists.
The name Art Nouveau was a reflection of the newness of their designs and was taken from an influential Parisian shop of the time, which had been established by German born Siegfried Bing (1838-1905). He sold pieces from Germany and England in addition to French pieces.
The style was characterized by fluid, curvaceous lines, which included loose tendrils, flower and leaf motifs.
It is still considered the very best of all Art Nouveau interiors were produced at Paris, where the unity of art and life was the declared aim of this new style whose sensuous and sinuous lines were more eloquent than words.
Purists today still prefer to apply the term art nouveau only to the largely nature inspired curvilinear French pieces made at Paris and Nancy, although the influence was widespread.
In Europe, England, America and Australia where builders, designers, artists and craftspeople all responded to the asymmetry and stylish sensuality of L’Art nouveau.
Flowers such as lilies, irises and orchids were favoured, although any and every form, from palm fronds to seaweed, offered potential for development into an animated pattern.
Insects and birds of colour and grace lent themselves to the same stylizing and refining process – as did dragonflies, peacocks, swallows, or creatures such as snakes or greyhounds.
There will be 40 works on display, all fine examples of French pottery and porcelain. They will be shown alongside comparative examples drawn from the Museum’s holdings of Asian art, European sculpture and decorative arts, Greek and Roman art, and European paintings to illustrate sources of inspiration.
French ceramics from Mr. Ellison’s collection of European art pottery collection include vases that pushed the boundaries of the medium and were technically experimental and aesthetically ambitious.
Works by master ceramicists Ernest Chaplet, Auguste Delaherche, Pierre-Adrien Dalpayrat, and Jean Carriès are highlights of the all-new installation.
Ernest Chaplet (1835-1909) loved Sang de boeuf glazes.
This is a term used to describe the wonderful deep red colours in glazes that originated with Chinese porcelains.
He worked hard to discover how to reproduce them, winning a gold medal at the Paris Universal Exposition for finally producing a French version of Sang de bouef glaze, a highly prized and elusive product.
Auguste Delaherche (1857-1940) like robust shapes and worked in the heart of the traditional region of Beauvais potters. He mainly produced stoneware, revealing that in his works he understood, admired and re-affirmed the relationship between form, colour and materials in his own unique way.
Pierre-Adrien Dalpayrat (1844 – 1910) produced some extraordinary works of mixed media between 1895 and 1904. Like his colleagues, he was interested in researching and endeavouring to understand colours produced using copper oxide.
The term ‘Dalpayrat red’ was used to describe the particular colour he achieved, which appeared on pieces in the form of gourds, fruits and shapes inspired by Japanese works, especially bottles.
He came from a family of artisan potters, who worked in their atelier between 1880 and 1930, inspiring followers of the ‘genre Dalpayrat’.
The show also includes the monumental Vase des Binelles by Hector Guimard, one of the unsung heroes of the time. He is well known for his design of Art Nouveau Métro stations throughout Paris.
An extremely rare ceramic vessel by painter Paul Gauguin, the first by the artist will also enter the Metropolitan Museum’s collection.
The Art Nouveau style expired suddenly, one of the first casualties of World War 1914-18.
Afterwards a new style was required.
Not one that was a return to the past or an imitation of it, but rather one that would fufill a new need deeply felt to invent a new form of classicism, one that would ward off the threat of a civilization wholly dominated by industry and technics.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014
February 4 – August 18, 2014
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York