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Friday, 26 October 2012

3. MEANWHILE IN FRANCE (1900-1925)


The opportunity to see traditional Japanese stoneware at the 1867 Paris exhibition broadened the field of European ceramics: for artists, collectors and potters. The Goncourt brothers, who collected Japanese stoneware and contemporary French works, became the advocates of the new ceramic aesthetics represented in France by DeckCarrièsChapletDalpayrat, Delaherche and others. 

By the time of the 1900 Paris Exhibition, and the stoneware renaissance it showcased, Jean Carriès had moved to Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye, where, with the assistance of local potters and the interest of a group of followers, he extended his experiments with free flowing glazes on stoneware and contributed to the revival of the old pottery town of Saint Amand in Puisaye:

In Puisaye and elsewhere in France a number of manufactures like Denbac, MéténierGréber, Lebretand studio potters like Léon Pointu*, etc. produced stoneware decorated with earthy matt glazes with a hint of subdued colours: blue, green, yellow. This led to a rather formulaic production that could never sustain the quality achieved by Carriès and his followers. 

Firms like 'Grès de Pierrefonds'* were successful in producing crystalline glazes, as did Alfred Renoleau; however, when the crystals did not form, a dull glaze formed, instead; giving these works a less exciting, dull look; irrespective of whether they were made in a studio or industrially produced. 


History does not flow in uni-linear fashion. Dalpayrat’s legacy did not affect the course of ceramics history — in France or elsewhere — it only set some remarkable standards; highlighting the difference between what could be achieved once in a studio — as one-off pieces — and what could be industrially produced (and be commercially viable) in series. 

Following Dalpayrat's death in 1905, decoration continued to prevail, through the Art Nouveau style; then, through the new fashionable forms of Art Déco

In a German lithograph from 1905, showing  art ceramics from the late 19th century, Dalpayrat's work is represented with a vase decorated with a typical Art Nouveau design. 

It is interesting to note that out of sixteen illustrated works, only three (by Massier, Bigot and Dalpayrat) were not decorated with figurative motifs.  


A large blue and yellow bowl by Louis Dage (1878 -1963), from the 1920’s, departs, in its decoration, from the stylised flowers and geometric Art Déco motifs Dage applied to most of his ceramics. 

The simple line of the bowl [simpler and more modern than the similar form nº 401 from Grès de Pierrefonds] stands in stark contrast with the emphatic motifs applied to ceramics of that period, sometimes with the addition of bronze ornaments:

In the larger piece below, however, a veiled narrative dimension has been wittily introduced.

In the absence of conventional figurative motifs, the blue and white mottled glaze, flowing suggestively over a craquelée (wax resit) yellow glaze, invites a figurative reading.

The narrative dimension arises, as a seemingly abstract pattern of flowing blue and white wittily suggests the overflow of water out of the bowl, over the parched ground of a landscape of drought:
Louis Dage, Bowl. Earthenware. c. 1925. Ø: 31.5 cm.*

This is a rare example of conceptual decoration, where the flow and the crackling of the glaze assume a figurative meaning. 

Whereas the blue and white glaze prefigures the flow (if not the texture) of the 'écume de mer' glaze that was developed in Vallauris during the 50s and 60s, the yellow glaze anticipates the 'craquelé' glazes that were produced in Vallauris and by the two German firms Jopeko (series '1003') and Jasba ('Cortina'), half a century later.

Let's note that the Art Nouveau style lasted well into the 20s, as can be verified in the stoneware works produced by Grès de Pierefonds, Poterie de la Montagne (at St Honoré), Denbac and others.


  1. Hi
    This is an interesting blog.. i was wondering if you can let me know something about JP Pichon (J Paul) Datt Mahit as I have a soup bowl with a matching plate and not sure of its worth

  2. There was a pottery run by someone called Pichon, making domestic ware, in Uzès, in the South of France, if I remember correctly. google 'pichon, uzès' to see pictures. The workshop continues in its fifth generation of potters. See their website at http://www.ceramique-pichon.com