By Lynn Byrne. Eva Zeisel, who died on December 30, 2011 at 105(!) described her work as “a playful search for beauty”. She told the Washington Post in 2003 that she “never wanted to shock.” Rather, she “wanted (her) audience to be happy, to be kind.” She also once said that “all of my work is mother-and-child.”
She is considered a master of modern design.
Eva Zeisel’s words hint at the humanistic element in her designs. The shapes in her work are frequently described as curvaceous, sensual and voluptuous. Objects nestle together, with larger objects seemingly protecting smaller ones. She even celebrated that most endearing feature, the belly button, seen in her vases and in a line of rugs she designed at the age of 102.
She obviously found great joy in life, even though hers was not easy. After World War I, while living in Russia, she was falsely accused of conspiring to assassinate Joseph Stalin. She was imprisoned in the Soviet Union for more than a year. Most of that time, she was in solitary confinement.
One day she was called from her cell for what she thought was going to be her execution. Surprisingly, she was released. She hurried to Austria, but soon left that country when it was taken over by Nazi Germany. Zeisel next went to England, and finally settled in New York just before World War II.
Zeisel made her first big splash in the U.S. in the 1940s when Castleton China engaged her to design a tableware collection. The Castleton collection was later shown at the Museum of Modern Art in its first show devoted solely to a woman designer. Today, many of her objects remain part of MOMA’s permanent collection.
Yet despite such accolades, Eva Zeisel resisted being called an artist, stating in the New Yorker that “art has more ego than I do”.
She may not have had an ego, but surely we have lost one of the world’s great artists. Take a look.
It is generally acknowledged that Eva Zeisel reached her height of popularity during the Cold War, with art critics claiming that her work provided a sense of tranquility during that tense time. That tranquility still draws people to her work today, and happily it remains accessible. Crate & Barrel offers her famous all white tableware collection at an affordable price point. You also can buy vases starting at $69 and framed art prints starting at $449 at Room & Board.
One hopes Eva Zeisel, herself, has found everlasting tranquility. Rest in peace, Eva.
Photo Credits: Photo 1 from the New York Social Diary. Click here to read a fabulous interview with Zeisel by the NYSD and more shots of Zeisel’s home. Photo 2 from Imrint. Photo 3 from goldenfingers.com. Photo 4 via Apartment Therapy. Photo 5 from Keen and Fitting. Photo 6 via flickr. Photo 7 via Interior Design. Photo 8 via Molly and Mary. Photo 9 from the Tyler Museum of Art.