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Object Timeline

1940

  • Work on this object began.

2012

2015

2019

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Vase (England), ca. 1940

This is a Vase. It is dated ca. 1940 and we acquired it in 2012. Its medium is glazed earthenware. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

The austere architectonic form of this vase embodies many of the modernist ideas espoused by Keith Murray. These included reliance on form, the use of geometric rather than organic shapes, and simple decoration (if decoration was used at all). Modernist design was, in part, intended as a practical, democratic means of meeting the needs of society and improving life for all through the use of mass production for well designed, widely available, and inexpensive goods. Like other architects and designers working in this style, Murray strove to create pieces that rejected the idea of decoration for decoration’s sake and that emphasized the idea of “form follows function.”
Wedgwood, established in 1759 by Josiah Wedgwood, was famous for its highly decorative traditional ceramic wares. The company commissioned pieces by well-known artists. In 1932, Wedgwood hired Murray to create a modern line to spur the firm’s business by appealing to a growing middle class that was increasingly interested in design. Although Murray’s modernist designs reflected the precision of machine production, his early vessel forms required throwing and turning by hand. A number of his later forms were suitable for manufacture by the slip casting method and, as such, were less expensive to produce.
The simple form of the blue-green globular vase, and its regular horizontal ridges, looks like a celebration of machine production. The matte glaze, developed in late 1932 to early 1933, has a muted eggshell-like sheen and further accentuates Murray’s pure form. His work contrasts greatly with contemporary art deco ceramics, such as those by Clarice Cliff, which were highly decorative and often used intensely-colored glazes applied in wild geometric patterns.
This vase is being offered together with another Murray vase as a gift. The pair would strengthen the museum’s international and modernist holdings. These vases broaden the museum’s collection of modernist ceramics while adding depth to its holdings of 20th-century English ceramics, which include a bowl and inkwell by Murray.

This object was donated by Max Pine. It is credited Gift of Max Pine.

Its dimensions are

H x diam.: 15.2 x 15.2 cm (6 x 6 in.)

It has the following markings

On underside, printed in black: "KM / WEDGWOOD OF ETRURIA & BARLASTON / MADE IN ENGLAND"; stamped: "W"

Cite this object as

Vase (England), ca. 1940; glazed earthenware; H x diam.: 15.2 x 15.2 cm (6 x 6 in.); Gift of Max Pine; 2012-17-3

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35456855/ |title=Vase (England), ca. 1940 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=17 February 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>