At first glance, I skipped over this piece—what I thought was “just another dowdy, brown jug.” But as I purchased other pieces from the collector, my eye kept wandering-back to the dowdy, brown jug. And slowly, the jug began to reveal its charms. I began to warm to its graceful (dare I say sensuous?) shape. I noticed its perfectly-formed handle, spout and neck. And I came to appreciate the hand-drawn sgrafitto etching, at once modernist and timeless. Finally, I saw how the cloudy, mottled salt glazing gave the jug an added depth and robust character. In the end, I really liked this jug!
Once I got the jug back into the shop, I started to do a little research on it. It turns out that the potter was a woman, Elfriede Balzar-Kopp (1904 – 1983), who lived and worked in Höhr-Grenzhausen, part of the Westerwald region of Germany (about half-way between Frankfurt and Cologne). Well known for her mastery of form and salt glazing, Elfriede has been called “the Grandmother of German Modernist ceramics.” She opened her own ceramics studio in 1927, a shop where her son, Heiner Balzar, apprenticed before going-on to his own respectable career as a ceramicist (with Jasba and Dümler & Breiden).
Elfriede was associated with the Neue Sachlichkeit—a German Weimar Republic-era philosophy which, poorly translated, means “New Objectivity” or “New Matter-of-Factness.” This school of thought was a movement away from the prevailing artistic trend, German Expressionism (which abandoned any sense of nature, order, tradition or objectivity and stressed the expression of feelings, emotional experience, societal alienation and tragic angst). The New Objectivity was considered a turn toward practicality, a more businesslike attitude and it had an association with Americanism. When the Nazis rose to power, they condemned New Objectivity and its art as degenerate.
As you can see, I ended-up buying the piece—and subsequently learned an awful lot from “just another dowdy, brown jug!” Please come into the shop to see it—and the rest of our newly-acquired European art pottery—or click on the photo above to learn more about this piece.
More newly-acquired European art pottery tomorrow.
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