Eva Zeisel

(b. 1906)

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After an early career in Europe Hungarian born Eva Zeisel emigrated to the United States in 1938 and became one of the most celebrated designers of 20th century tableware. Her early pottery designs were influenced by Hungarian folk art as well more fashionable Wiener Werkstätte trends. After a period designing teasets for the Kispester Pottery in Budapest, she produced designs for a number of other European manufacturers, including the Schramberger Majolika Fabrik (1928–30) and Christian Karstens Kommerz (1930–2) in Germany. Her design outlook in Germany displayed knowledge of contemporary modernist trends epitomized by the progressive outlook of the Deutscher Werkbund and the Bauhaus, both of which favoured clean, undecorated geometric forms. In 1932 Zeisel left for the USSR and worked in the Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory until 1934 and Dulevo Porcelain Factory (1934–6) and became art director of the China and Glass Industry of the Russian Republic. After her arrival in the USA in 1938 she taught at the Pratt Institute of Art, Brooklyn, and the Rhode Island School of Design. She soon attracted particular critical attention with her designs in 1942–3 for her Museum dinnerware designs, resulting from a collaboration between Castleton China and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. Its clean shapes and elegant forms of reflected the best of European Modernism between the wars. However, the range was unable to be put into mass production until 1946 when it was launched in a special exhibition at MOMA. Amongst other early ceramic designs in America was the less formal and biomorphic Town and Country dinnerware (1945) for Red Wing Pottery, in tune with much immediate post‐war organic design by designers such as Russell Wright, Isamu Noguchi, and Charles and Ray Eames. Her designs for Tomorrows's Classic (1949–50), later manufactured by Hall China, proved a commercial success. Zeisel also designed in other media, ranging from metal cookware for General Mills to a chromium‐plated portable chair, the prototype of which was designed in the late 1940s. However, it was never put into mass production, despite being shown to critical acclaim at the Milan Triennale of 1964. During her career many companies including Sears Roebuck in the United States, Rosenthal in Germany, Mancioli in Italy, Noritake in Japan, and Zsolnay in Hungary commissioned Zeisel for designs in different media. In 1983 she received a grant from the USA's National Endowment for the Arts and returned to Hungary and, in the following year a retrospective of her work entitled Eva Zeisel: Designer for Industry began to tour internationally.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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