Artists and designers are always looking for inspiration. Oftentimes, aesthetic trends might correlate to the day’s news or to discoveries far-removed from the world of interior design trends. Examples include the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 which encouraged an Egyptian Revival in the Art Deco movement of the next two decades. Or the 1859 publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species which precipitated the use of dragonflies, spiders, lizards and “all-things-creepy-and-crawly” in the Aesthetic Movement soon to follow.
Shown above, a piece of West German art pottery from the 1960’s inspired by the (somewhat) recent discovery of the Paleolithic cave paintings of Lascaux, France. The caves were first (re-) discovered in 1940, were studied by archeologists and art historians, then opened to the public in 1948. Within the caves were found over 2,000 figures—animals, human forms and abstract designs—painted over 17,000 years ago. The prehistoric artists used colored minerals in red, yellow and black. These pigments were either suspended in animal fat and painted-on, or applied as a dry, powdered material, blown onto the cave wall surface through a tube.
In addition to Lascaux, Mid-Century ceramicists were inspired by other archaeological discoveries of their day. This explains the profusion of designs modeled after common “utilityware” items like jugs, oil jars and cooking pots. Roman ruins—whether un-earthed in the Middle East, Britain or Continental Europe—provided a treasure trove of design inspiration which the artists re-interpreted in a novel, Modernist way. So, the next time you mutter “Why does that otherwise fabulous vase have to have a jug handle on it?”, remember that the designer’s intent was to channel the aesthetic influences of an earlier, historic period. This is what designers do.
Unfortunately, thousands of heavy-breathing tourists (and their flashbulbs) took their toll upon the Lascaux caves. The paintings began to deteriorate and a nasty, black fungus began to cover the painted walls. In 1963, the authorities closed the Lascaux caves to visitors—though they built a replica “Lascaux II” for tourists, not far away from the original. And the good people at Scheurich Keramic made the vase above—which you may contemplate and breathe-upon as much as you wish. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. Or come into the shop to see all of the new arrivals—and our large collection of art pottery from the 19th and 20th centuries.
More newly-acquired European art pottery tomorrow.
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