Yesterday we discussed the pioneering glaze developments of Clément Massier, céremiste extraordinaire and icon of the Art Nouveau movement. Along with talented teammates, Massier invented new glazing techniques which were inspired by Iberian, Islamic, Chinese and Ancient ceramics works from Egypt, Greece and Rome. His signature was metallic lustre glazes—iridescent finishes using copper, silver and gold. These pieces were first glazed and fired at the normal (high) temperature (twice). Next, a solution of copper- (or silver- or gold-) oxide (and other metallic chemicals) was applied and the piece endured a third (low temperature) firing in a low-oxygen kiln. After firing, the pieces might be inscribed with an "over pattern" or embellished with a cold-paint design. Such "organic" glazing techniques produced unpredictable, unrepeatable effects, making each piece one-of-a-kind. But this random, organic sensibility was at the heart of the Art Nouveau movement. And Massier was one of the most important craftsmen-artistes of the period.
Another important employee was Frenchman Jacques Sicard, who worked closely with Massier, developing glazes and other decorative techniques. Sicard left Massier in 1901 and spent a few years in the United States, working for Weller in Ohio. At Weller, Sicard developed the high-end "Sicardo" line of art ceramics for Weller, burnishing the company's reputation as one of the top worldwide players in the artisanal ceramics trade. But this high-end line was unpredictable in the kiln and expensive to produce—fully 70% of pieces were considered unsaleable (and, presumably, destroyed). This was a difficult business for Weller to support, given that the company was far better known for its high-volume (high profit) mass production efforts.
Clément Massier was richly rewarded for his artistry and ingenuity. He was financially successful, selling his work to a sophisticated carriage trade. He won gold medals at both Paris Expositions of 1889 and 1900. And his name lives-on as one of the fathers of the Art Nouveau movement and ceramics artistry in particular.
The Massier piece, shown above, exhibits an eruption of metallic color surging asymmetrically around the vase. Metallic gold iridesces thoroughout. A hand-inscribed "rose bush" over pattern—flowers and leaves—lies like a lace shawl over the vase. Learn more about this piece by clicking on the photo above.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248