Groundbreaking Modernist ceramicist Eva Zeisel died on Friday aged 105
A self-declared ‘maker of useful things’, she created sensuous forms inspired by the human body, taking an organic approach to Modernism in reaction to the angular Bauhaus aesthetics popular at the time of her early training. ‘I don’t create angular things. I’m a more circular person—it’s more my character….even the air between my hands is round.’
Zeisel’s works are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum; Brooklyn museum; Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum and TheMuseum of Modern Art, New York; the British Museum; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Bröhan Museum, Germany; as well as Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta and Milwaukee museums and others in the US and abroad.
In the 1980s, a 50 year retrospective of her work organized by Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Smithsonian Institution travelled through the US, Europe and Russia. In 2005, Zeisel won the Lifetime Achievement award from the Cooper-Hewett National Design Museum. She has also received the two highest civilian awards from the Hungarian government, as well as the Pratt Legends award and awards from the Industrial Designers Society of America and Alfred University. She is an honorary member of the Royal Society of Industrial Designers, and has received honorary degrees from Parsons (New School), Rhode Island School of Design, the Royal College of Art, and the Hungarian University of the Arts.
Zeisel received artistic training in her native Hungary. She then moved to the Soviet Union, where she worked in a factory and, after building a reputation as a ceramicist, secured a job as art director of the state-run porcelain and glass industries. But, while in that position, Zeisel was accused of conspiring to assassinate Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, leading to a year of imprisonment and solitary confinement – providing the inspiration for Arthur Koestler’s ‘Darkness at Noon’
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