2 December 2016

A STRIKING MODERN-LOOKING TEA SERVICE FROM 1901

This porcelain tea service was made in 1901-2 from a design by Jutta Sika (1877-1964). The milk jug is 8.5cm high, the teapot 12.5cm, the cup 6.5cm high, diameter 9cm, and the saucer has a diameter of 16.5cm. It was manufactured by Josef Böch of Vienna, 1901-1902

It is in the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche, Faenza. The catalogue says, "Jutta Sika was a pupil of Kolomon Moser at the Vienna Kunstgewerbschule from 1897-1902 and one of the founders of the Wiener Kunst im Hause. The Wiener Werkstätte never directly produced glass and porcelain itself, entrusting its execution to the most prestigious Bohemian and Viennese factories of the period, Bakalowitz and Böch. This tea service exhibits simplicity, the use of a geometrical matrix and a pioneering functionality. The decoration, employing groups of white circles against a pale blue background, shows the influence of the Viennese strand of Art Nouveau. The inscription 'Schule prof Kolo Moser' is impressed upon the reverse of the saucer."

The modernity of this tea service is striking, especially when you consider that British potteries at the time (such as Doulton and Pilkingtons) were producing historicist Arts and Crafts pottery.

The Wiener Kunst im Hause (Viennese Art in the Home) created integrated domestic interiors. Their products, which they exhibited at the Paris Exhibition of 1900 and the Vienna Seccession Exhibition of 1902, were praised for their simplicity, practicability and affordability. Out of the Weiner Kunst grew the Wiener Werkstätte. Its founders, Josef Hoffmann and Kolomon Moser, were inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement but rapidly went beyond it, embracing machine production and developing a forward-looking aesthetic. The Bauhaus followed a a similar path after the First World War. The early experimental ceramics of the Bauhaus are less convincing than Sika's, but some of its graduates, for example Margarete Heymann, did striking work.

This was the artistic environment in which Lucie Rie was educated. She studied ceramics at the Weiner Kunstgewerbschule from 1922 under the traditional Michael Powolny but came under the influence of Moser, who encouraged her to exhibit at the Wiener Werkstätte. By then it had lost its original drive and had been reduced to selling presents and nick-nacks.