Paris | France
Exhibition 19 > 21 + 23 May 2016
Sale 24 May 2016
You can see it in the simple, sculptural forms of Serge Mouille’s lighting designs of those few years, and in Charlotte Perriand’s Free form table, 1956. It was as if, suddenly, in the mid-1950s, all the avant-garde French designers agreed to adopt a different kind of modernism. The mood swing, however, could be attributed to a growing international interest in the elegant forms emerging in the new and popular kinetic art and the effect of technologies developed during World War II that had been taken up by designers such Charles and Ray Eames, who had experimented with fibreglass, plastic resin and wire, to produce new types of furniture and home accessories that were stronger, but lighter in feel than anything that had existed before.
The new products had a knock-on effect to interior design, and, so as not to look incongruous in the new settings, ceramics would have to change, too. All of the examples of work shown here are by the prominent French ceramicist Georges Jouve (1910 > 1964) and were created in or around 1955.
In the 1940s Jouve, who had trained as a sculptor at Paris’s prestigious École Boulle, and who, having escaped from a German prison camp, learnt local potter’s techniques in the South of France, began producing rustic semi-figurative, decorative work inspired by the religious figurines of the locality. Back in Paris, in 1944, he was producing robust pottery, often demonstrating an ironic humour; his Vase femme a nichons – literally translated as Woman with tits vase – of which he produced many versions, is a bust of a voluptuous woman with large breasts squeezed onto a pedestal base.
Toward the end of the Forties, the influence of cubism and African art was discernible in his latest pieces, and was destined to remain as Jouve started to pare down and to simplify his vases and pitchers, on which in the early 1950s he would sometimes scrawl Picasso-esque line drawings. As the decade’s mid-point approached the surface decoration diminished and all but disappeared, the shapes became more defined, refined, and often more delicate; the potter’s former, murky palette was replaced with a fresh one restricted to strong reds, oranges, yellow, apple green, black, white and grey. Much imitated during the 1960s, the stripped-down tiled-surfaced, rectangular tables illustrated with brash, colourful abstract designs that Jouve had introduced in 1950 would become a fixture of his repertoire, but by 1955 all extraneous structural detail had been abolished, the tile pattern reduced to linear monochrome designs. Each piece retained its handmade qualities and all were signed by the hand that made them.
Jouve’s jokey Banane bowl is a clear indication that he never lost his talent to amuse, and it’s clear in his Calice vase design (both shown above) that while he developed a new style, which was appropriate to the period, he did not make a total departure from his earlier, more solid way of working: he sometimes simply streamlined it a little, which had a similar effect to putting a generously-proportioned lady into a more flatteringly-cut dress.
All items designed by George Jouve
Photos Sotheby’s / Art Digital Studio
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