August 4, 2016 | Vitreous, white, and often delicately translucent, porcelain was invented in China as early as the seventh century, but Western attempts to reproduce the Chinese miracle failed until the dawn of the eighteenth century, when the Saxon ruler Augustus the Strong pressed into his service the young Berlin alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger and commanded him to enrich the Saxon coffers by producing gold from base metals. When Böttger failed at this, Augustus pressed him into porcelain experimentation, as assistant to the eminent philosopher-scientist Ehernfried Walter von Tschirnhaus, who had been conducting research in the field of glass and porcelain since the 1680s.
In 1708 Böttger fused a blend of fire-resistant white kaolin (discovered near Meissen) and a ground feldspathic stone (since called petuntse from the Chinese bi-dun-dzu or China stone) and thereby stumbled on the recipe for hard-paste porcelain like the Chinese.
Determined to monopolize Europe…
March 16, 2015 | Recent noteworthy publications that are a pleasure to read and a delight to behold
French Art Deco by Jared Goss (Metropolitan Museum of Art, distr. Yale University Press). 280 pp., color and b/w illus.
As an artistic term, art deco is one of the most misunderstood. “Art Deco is commonly referred to as a ‘style,’ a designation that suggests specific shared characteristics,” observes scholar and former Metropolitan Museum of Art associate curator Jared Goss. “The diversity of expression, however, precludes conceptual unity. More accurate, perhaps, would be ‘movement’ or ‘idiom.’” Goss is by no means the first author to wade into the deco fray, but his focus lends his book distinction. Taking his cue from the Met installation Masterpieces of Art Deco, which he organized, and which was on view from August 2009 through January 2011, he has addressed the subject from the viewpoint of the French works and designers represented in the museum’s own collection.
France is essentially …» More
September 8, 2014 | History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400-2000, ed. Pat Kirkham and Susan Weber (Bard Graduate Center and Yale University Press). 698 pp., color and b/w illus.
Books about design history abound, but this one may be the first to embrace both Western and Eastern design over the course of six centuries. The discussions address virtually every expected subject: furniture, textiles and costume, glass and ceramics, metalwork, and product design. But the book goes beyond these to include interior design, landscape and garden design, and even stage and film design.
The work of twenty-seven contributors, the volume is cogently arranged in four chronological sections. Within each section separate chapters discuss the development of design in its major global regions: East Asia, India, the Islamic world, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Literally hundreds of objects are depicted and examined within their historical and social context. We also witness the interpla…» More
July 28, 2014 | The son of Dr. William P. Spratling, a celebrated neurologist and pioneer in treating epilepsy, William Spratling had a tragic childhood, losing his mother and a sister when he was ten, and his father five years later. He went on to Auburn University in Alabama, where he majored in architecture and was apparently teaching the subject there within two years of his arrival. At twenty-one he became an associate professor of architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans, and during the ensuing years he also wrote on architecture and related subjects for Scribner's Magazine, the Journal of the American Institute of Architects, and other publications.
His personal charm, his intellectual abilities, and his writing (he was eventually the author of eight books including an autobiography) gained him entrée into literary circles, where he forged close friendships with such luminaries as Sherwood Anderson, John Dos Passos, and William Faulkner. Faulkner and Spratling lived together …» More
May 21, 2014 | Although the earliest surviving illustrated botanical manuscript dates from AD 512-the Vienna Dioscurides, a copy of the important medical treatise by the first-century Greek physician and herbalist Pedanius Dioscurides-botanical illustration as a distinctive artistic genre developed in the fifteenth century with the rise of illustrated herbals, manuscripts explaining the medicinal and culinary uses of plants and flowers. After all, in an age living close to the ground, it was crucial to distinguish between a plant that could induce sleep and one that would induce it forever. The introduction of exotic new plants from Asia and the Americas during the sixteenth century prompted continuous publication of accurate pictures to help botanists study, name, and classify the new discoveries. Continued refinements to reproductive engraving and lithographic techniques furthered these publications during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most techniques produced black-and-white…» More
by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Cynthia Drayton» View All