Tradition Transformed: Danish Ceramics in the Twentieth Century

October 23, 2011 - January 08, 2012

Vase, 2007.  Lis Ehrenreich (Danish, born 1953), Glazed stoneware.  Collection of the Art Fund Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Gift of William F. Hull  AFI349.2010.

Vase, 2007. Lis Ehrenreich (Danish, born 1953), Glazed stoneware. Collection of the Art Fund Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Gift of William F. Hull AFI349.2010.

Beginning on October 23, 2011, the Museum will highlight an exceptional recent gift of more than forty pieces of 20th-century Danish pottery. The collection, given to the BMA by William Hull and Dr. and Mrs. Frederick Baekeland, reflects Denmark’s distinctly artistic pottery tradition, but one that is relatively new, dating only to the 1880s, when a small group of Danish artists began to take an interest in ceramics as a medium for expression. Known as studio potters, these artists worked alone or in small groups and performed each stage of the ceramic process themselves – preparing the clay, mixing glazes, throwing, trimming, glazing, and firing – all tasks that might be performed by different people or machines in an industrial setting. As the 20th century progressed, these potters, some of whom worked for Royal Copenhagen or its competitor Bing & Grøndahl as well as in their own studios, produced vessels that were diverse and individual but always distinctly Danish.

Tradition Transformed: Danish Ceramics in the Twentieth Century will address the evolution of the Danish pottery tradition through an exploration of Modernist pieces produced for Royal Copenhagen and Bing & Grøndahl, works from Copenhagen’s great studio workshop Saxbo, teapots and tea bowls reflecting the profound influence of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean ceramics on the studio potters of Denmark, and creative yet traditional vessel forms of the Postmodern age. The wide range of Danish studio potters represented in Tradition Transformed include early-to-mid-20th century artists such as Jais Nielsen, Arne Bang, and Axel Salto and contemporary potters Ulla Hansen, Malene Mullertz, Bente Hansen, Hans Vangsø, and Lis Ehrenreich. This recent gift enhances the Museum’s strong collection of ceramics and provides an important link between its historical and contemporary holdings in European and American ceramics.