Published: September 4, 2012
One of the most outstanding triumphs of Rookwood Pottery’s chief decorator Kataro Shirayamadani was the perfection of an electrodepositing process in 1897. Using electricity to apply copper and silver on carved and fired clay relief, Shirayamadani achieved unprecedented formal integration of ceramic and metalwork components, vaulting Rookwood onto the international scene.
The Carnegie Museum of Art recently acquired a masterwork vase created by the Rookwood Pottery Co.’s decorator in 1900.
This vase was almost certainly part of Rookwood’s groundbreaking display at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle. Jason Busch, chief curator and the Alan G. and Jane A. Lehman curator of decorative arts and design, identified its innovative qualities as he researched and co-organized “Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851‱939,” which opens at Carnegie Museum of Art in October. It is among a mere 100 objects produced using this technique between 1898 and 1903, making them extremely rare today.
Few among this small group of objects were anywhere near as successful or as ambitious as this vase, which demonstrates the ideal marriage of form, composition and the use of electrodepositing. The expertly conceived copper-coated fish, rendered by relief carving and modeling in the earthenware clay, blend seamlessly into the watery depth of body, achieved with a wash of dappled black underglaze oxide and Rookwood’s famed Sea Green glaze, itself a major innovation.
The vase is now on display on the balcony of the Carnegie Museum of Art Hall of Sculpture. It is among several recent World’s Fairs-related acquisitions made by the department of decorative arts and design.
The Carnegie Museum of Art is 4400 Forbes Avenue. For information, 412-622-3131 or www.cmoa.org .
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