Blog | The Modern Reason
The golden age of modernist midcentury enameling on metal has left us with many fine examples. I love this enamel painting mounted on a teak frame. The metal panel is enameled right to the edge and raised up off the wood frame. A beautiful Italian hilltown in blues and greens.
One of my favorite ceramic inspirations is a line of everyday pottery from France. Made by a company named Grandjean Jourdan, they were created in Vallauris France sometime in the early 1950s. I don’t know much about who they were, but it seems to be a family business with a couple of generations working.
Vallauris has been a pottery making center from the times of the Romans. After WWII, Picasso brought renewed attention to the potteries there and created many amazing pieces. Some pieces are still produced by Madoura, based on Picasso’s designs. There were other modernist ceramicists working in Vallauris as well, including Roger Capron.
The Grandjean pieces I love are hand-painted serving ware (mugs, pitchers,plates,etc.). They are painted in a folk art style with each painted to resemble wood. I have several that are painted with this faux bois, but have a matte finish. I prefer these, not the glossy glazed versions.
There are also pieces with bright glossy glazes on the inside. At some point they even painted silhouettes on the outside of figures or animals. I am continually finding more examples online. They were meant to be used everyday like anything you would find today in Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel. Is there anything cheap and beautiful like this sold today? There were even lamps made which are incredible. They are whimsical and remind me of summer and Provence.
I finally got to see a building I had long admired in San Diego. After seeing the eye opening documentary about architect Louis Kahn, ‘My Architect’; The Salk Institute in La Jolla was always on my bucket list of architecture. Although they have tours, you need to book in advance, and I hadn’t. You can still tour the plaza over looking the Pacific high up on a bluff. I came into the property from below and was underwhelmed by the patio furniture the lunch crowd must enjoy. The carved stone chairs were the architect’s minimal answer to basic seating. I wonder if Louis ever specified the lower area to be a cafeteria, and what chairs he wanted there. Seems like a silly designer to worry about this detail, but this building is so austere and contemplative, the metal tables and chairs are distracting. I’m sure I would feel different if I worked there.
The new classic concrete building that has just replaced the Salk in my bucket o’ buildings, is in Tel Aviv. The The Herta & Paul Amir Building, Tel Aviv Museum of Art by Preston Scott Cohen represents the kind of building Kahn could not have imagined in the 60’s. Made possible by computer modeling and advancing concrete construction into a very special place.
Many of the beautiful ceramics, lighting, furniture and other decorative objects from the midcentury modern period that I love have one thing in common. They were sold by a company in NYC that carried the who's who of important designers.
These wall plaques below were designed by Arthur Umnanoff. They were hand carved and finished in Haiti. Called ‘The Taverneau Collection’, there were several animals created. Here I show a bull or water buffalo and a swallow.
Here is a description from ‘The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Design’.
Also known as Richards Morgenthau & Co., the New York-based company Raymor was a well-known American distributor of modern domestic products, evolving from Russell Wright Accessories, with which the company’s founder, Irving Richards, had been linked since 1935. The company’s range included designs by Gilbert Rohde, Donald Deskey, Walter Dorwin Teague, Ray and Charles Eames, George Nelson, and Eva Zeisel. In the post-Second World War period Raymor also imported modern Scandinavian and Italian designs, including work by Arne Jacobsen, Tapio Wirkaala, Hans Wegner, and Ettore Sottsass, the latter designing a wide range of ceramics in the late 1950s. From 1947, when the Richards Morgenthau side of the business was formed, the company also manufactured lighting, ceramics, and glass in its own factory in New Jersey, many items being designed by Irving Richards himself. Although known both as Raymor and Richards Morgenthau & Co., the former was more closely identified with design and imports, the latter with sales.
The Victoria & Albert Museum just finished an interesting exhibition on January 2. Luckily we have a video to watch all of the fun we missed! I love the idea of the cross pollination between MIT brainiacs and crazy crafts people such as myself.
Here is a wonderful claymation/stop-motion video. You can read more on it’s creation (scroll down if you can’t read Russian) here. The track is a sample taken from the great Donny Hathaway. My favorite song from Donny has to be this one, however.
I wish I could win one of those contests where you get to go in a store and gather as much as you can and keep it. Sort of like Supermarket Sweep for those who might be old enough to remember. My dream contest would be in a bookstore. I would fill my cart with all those super expensive art/architecture/design books. I love the books that Taschen, Chronicle Books and Rizzoli publish. Some of them are kind of big and heavy, I better start training before the contest. Maybe Hennessey+Ingalls Bookstore in California would have this ‘Bookstore Sweep’ contest..hint,hint.
I think this video shows how exciting bookstores really are.