Swedish, 1877-1945Covered vase
Earthenware with underglaze slips
Gustavsberg, Gustavsberg, Sweden, Manufacturer, 1825-present
Gift of the Decorative Arts Council and Daniel Morris and Denis Gallion, Historical Design Collection, Inc., New York 94.35a,b
Friday, July 16, 2010Sunday, July 22, 2012
Wells Fargo Center
This exhibition, continuing the series at Wells Fargo Center in downtown Minneapolis, comprises a variety of influential designers and celebrated workshops from the Nordic countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, with objects dating from the 1890s through the 1960s, representative of prominent design movements. The stylistic diversity on display is unified by a common focus on democratic ideals, realized through underlying principles emphasizing practicality, affordability, and aesthetic appeal in design for a broad range of consumers.
Early works in ceramic display fin de siecle decorative embellishment on increasingly modernist forms. Colorful ceramics, from Josef Ekberg's large-scale Art Nouveau vase, covered with an abstracted allium, to the bold geometry of the Fennia vase for Arabia Porcelain Factory, evidence advancement in graphic design toward an aesthetic vocabulary favoring pattern, symmetry, and precision.
A number of refined works in metal highlight the emergence of the Nordic functionalist movement of the 1930s, marked by the central principle that form follows function. Objects such as a donut-shaped decanter by Harald Folmer Gross demonstrate the unadorned, minimalist aesthetic commonly associated with Nordic modernism in the twentieth century. This shift, prominently displayed at the influential 1930 Stockholm Exhibition, saw many designers, artists, and architects creating work that emphasized usefulness through a scaling back of decorative embellishment. But while functionalism saw its fullest realization in architecture, its principles were embraced in the decorative arts while also maintaining distinct references to handcrafts and tradition.
Beginning in the 1950s, many designers developed a more sculptural and organic sensibility. A silver teapot by Karl Gustav Hansen, with a biomorphic shape and wicker handle, reveals not only a focus on simplicity and technical virtuosity, but also includes subtle yet distinct flourishes at the handle and spout. Similarly, the Wire Cone chair by Verner Panton and the Ericofon telephone show the continuation of innovative design for everyday needs while also reflecting a sense of whimsy and individuality. As post-war mass production meant designers were now often working at an industrial scale, it is this balance of sensibility and aesthetic playfulness that continues to distinguish Nordic design.