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Masters of Contemporary American Crafts

DATES February 14, 1961 through April 23, 1961
ORGANIZING DEPARTMENT Decorative Arts
COLLECTIONS Decorative Arts
  • February 10, 1960 The Brooklyn Museum announces an unusual Exhibition of handicrafts opening on Tuesday, February 14, in an installation specially designed to accent each of the 223 objects assembled from museums, private collections and churches for the unique showing of MASTERS OF CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN CRAFTS. One of the more important aspects of this retrospective Exhibition is a representation of approximately 20 years work of 8 artists whose recognition began in the 1930s and whose impact on designers and industrial producers of decorative arts, as well as younger craftsmen, has earned them the right to be known as Masters of Contemporary American Crafts.

    The Exhibition, organized and assembled by Marvin D. Schwartz, Curator of Decorative Arts at The Brooklyn Museum, presents the work of the 8 Masters, revealing their influences in the trends of textiles, ceramics, enamels, silver and furniture, in styles as diverse as any 8 individuals. For some of these Masters, form is the most important, for others, it is decoration. Some are innovators, others are traditionalists.

    The 8 craftsmen, 2 weavers, 2 potters, 2 enamelists, a furniture designer and a silversmith, typify the observation made by Mr. Schwartz, “The craftsman is constantly rebelling against that which has gone before in an effort to create new and exciting designs which are true expressions of his own time, aspirations and environment. It is of significant importance to see the work of individuals who rebelled against popular classical styles.”

    One of the weavers in the exhibition is LILI BLUMENAU whose early artistic training was in painting, having studied in Germany, France, and the United States. Miss Blumenau’s master works of design and weaving will include wall hangings of geometric compositions, bright sportswear plaids, casement curtains, and other heavier decorative fabrics.

    The other master weaver in the Exhibition is MARIANNE STRENGELL who began her work in her native country in Finland when she graduated from the Helsinki Central School of Industrial Design in 1929. Now an important figure on the American textile scene, she introduces an element of the Scandinavian tradition, experimenting with new yarns and fabrics for industry.

    FRANS WILDENHAIN is a potter whose work is characterized by great variety. Whimsical shapes, functional forms, and ceramic sculpture are all within the scope of the work of this potter who is one of the experiment[e]rs of The Bauhaus in Germany.

    EDWIN SCHEIER, born In New York, was one of the first modern potters to seek inspiration in folk pottery and to develop a fresh style based on it. While head of the T.V.A. Art Center in Norris, Tennessee, during the depression years, he learned the technique of potting using the simple country pottery as the source of inspiration.

    Massachusetts native, KENNETH F. BATES, first studied enameling at the Massachusetts School of Art in 1922. The classlcal shapes of his early work have been replaced by bold asymmetrical shapes with decorations reflecting his interest in flowers and gardening; though religious motifs are also important decorative sources for this prize-winning enamelist.

    KARL DRERUP is a traditionalist and his enamels combine the best use of traditional techniques with a fresh approach to subject matter. Born in Germany, Drerup moved to Italy in 1926 where he was a student of painting, but the political situation in l934 led to a move to the Canary Islands, then to the United States where he first studied enameling. His enamels are usually simple shapes that provide ample surface for decoration.

    WHARTON ESHERICK of Philadelphia began making furniture in the late 20s, first carving decorative motifs on large rectangular forms. Letting each piece develop as he works it, Mr. Esherick allows the pattern in the wood to suggest the form, building his furniture as though it were sculpture.

    Silversmith, HUDSON ROYSHER, is best known for the liturgical objects he has produced in silver and brass. Dividing his time between industrial design and silversmithing, the Professor of Industrial Design at Los Angeles State College believes that a silver object must serve its use and express the characteristics of the material if it is well designed.

    There are at least 20 examples of the work of each craftsman in this major Exhibition at The Brooklyn Museum, on view from February 14 through April 23. On the evening of February 13, there will be an invitational preview for the press, the craftsmen, Museum Members, and their guests.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1953 - 1970. 1961, 001-3.
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