This month’s artwork has a double aspect. Primarily, it is a piece of design consisting of white porcelain plates, dishes and cups. Yet it is also a black and white photograph that depicts the set, highlights its qualities, and advances its presentation. It is an example of co-operation between the designer Ladislav Sutnar (1897–1976) and the photographer Josef Sudek (1896–1976). The two collaborated on many images depicting and advertising Sutnar’s porcelain sets, glassware or cutlery. While this article pays attention to the role of photography in communicating design, its main focus is the porcelain set. What is of particular interest is the place it occupied between commerce and art in the attempt to elevate the aesthetic standards of a regular Czechoslovak home.
Artwork of the Month, December 2022: Bundt-Cake Madonna by Margit Kovács (1938)
The Hungarian town of Szentendre is known for its small museums dedicated to individual artists, but the Margit Kovács Museum stood out in popularity after it first opened in 1973. Looking at the ceramicist’s Bundt-Cake Madonna, it is not hard to understand why. As the title indicates, the conical shape of the Madonna’s body is designed to recall a cake; the white glazing on the surface, then, makes us think of the cake’s icing. The baby Jesus wears the same, cake-shaped garment, but a tiny one, and his mother holds him lovingly, gently bending her neck to touch her face to the baby’s crown. It is a sweet composition, and it is also a very well-formed one, which unites simple, pure form with intricate surface decoration, so that the ceramic sculpture as a whole appears robust and solid, rather than finicky. It represents a cake that is not only sweet, but also filling; a dessert of considerable substance.
Creativity from Vienna to the World: New online project
We are pleased to announce that Professor Megan Brandow-Faller (City University of New York) and CRAACE research fellow Julia Secklehner have been awarded an events grant from the Botstiber Foundation for Creativity from Vienna to the World, an online project that includes lectures, a blog and an online exhibition. The project connects aspects of design and women’s history, pedagogy, migration history and cultural transfer to trace the achievements of migrant women designers who moved to the United States from Central Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.
Artwork of the Month, July 2022: Head by Vally Wieselthier (1928)
This striking ceramic head, nearly 28 centimetres in height, depicts a young woman wearing a slanted fashionable cap, counter-posed with a green flower in her hair. It was executed by Vally Wieselthier (1895–1945) and is one of many female heads she produced for the Wiener Werkstätte in the late 1920s. Indeed, not only did Wieselthier produce distinctive ceramic heads of this kind; many other artists associated with the Wiener Werkstätte, such as Gudrun Baudisch (1907–1982), Hertha Bucher (1898–1960) and Erna Kopriva (1894–1984) made similar heads. Baudisch, in particular, executed a number that are sometimes difficult to distinguish from those by Wieselthier.
Recordings of the CRAACE conference Exhibitions, New Nations and the Human Factor
The CRAACE conference Exhibitions, New Nations and the Human Factor, 1873–1939 took place at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art in Paris on 4–5 April 2022. Focusing on world’s fairs and international exhibitions, it looked beyond their official, state-sponsored aims and considered the role of individuals and groups in them. Who were the people who organised them, designed them, worked in them and visited them? The conference placed agency at the heart of the discussion. To what extent did those involved adhere to or challenge the ostensible purpose of these events?
For those who missed the conference or would like to revisit the talks, we will make recordings of the individual sessions available on Youtube for a limited time. The sessions will be posted below on this page one by one as they become available, so watch this space.