Eva Zeisel: A Century of Designing Elegance
January 9, 2020 – October 4, 2020
Eva Zeisel (1906-2011) was the preeminent modern designer of mass-produced dinnerware of the 20th century. No other ceramic designer can lay claim to such a high degree of creative activity in so many different countries over such a long period. From pre-World War I Hungary and the Golden Twenties in Germany to 1930s Stalinist Russia and ultimately the United States, her extraordinary life reflected moments of artistic ferment, political upheaval, and cultural revolution.
Similarly, Zeisel’s artistic output over eighty-five years as an industrial designer effectively shaped the look of the century. Active from 1926 until her death in 2011, many of her designs are still in production, with several introduced posthumously. Most importantly, she was interested in the “soul contact” and beauty of an object to inspire joy in those who use her creations in their daily lives. An advocate of “playful beauty” and the sensuous curve, her distinctive designs remain timeless.
On view are designs in ceramic, glass, and wood from 21 different lines, ranging from Zeisel’s first handmade studio pottery in 1926 in Hungary to FilzFelt acoustic felt wall tiles that were introduced in 2017. Of special interest are a group of ceramics from 1939 produced by Bay Ridge Specialty of Trenton, New Jersey, one of Zeisel’s earliest U.S. commissions.
Throwing Curves—Eva Zeisel
Thursday, March 19, 7:00PM
Sunday, May 17, 2:00PM
April 15, 2020, 3:00PM (After the Tea and Talk)
Director/producer Jyll Johnston explores Eva Zeisel’s extraordinary story in her own words, from her birth in Hungary in 1906 through her career in Germany and the Soviet Union in the 30s, and New York from the 40s onward.
Reflecting on her life as witness to all the major art and political movements of the 20th century, the film interweaves Zeisel’s design work with her dramatic biography, which included sixteen months in a Soviet Union prison (falsely accused of conspiring to kill Stalin), escaping the Nazis, and emigrating to New York City to set up a new life. Finally, in testimony to one of America’s earliest “super moms,” the film explores the tension between modern motherhood and a career in the arts. (2002, 60 min.)
Museum Members: FREE
Non-member: FREE with Museum Admission.
Tea and Talk
Soul Contact: Life With Eva Zeisel
Wednesday, April 15, 2:00 pm
Join Jean Richards— actress, children’s book author, and daughter of ceramic design doyenne Eva Zeisel (American, b. Hungary, 1906-2011) —in conversation with Ronald T. Labaco, Chief Curator of the Morris Museum, about the extraordinary life of one of the 20th century’s most prolific industrial designers. Renowned for her organic dinnerware forms with soft curves that invite “soul contact,” Eva Zeisel also gained notoriety in a male-dominated field with such statements as, “Men have no concept of how to design things for the home. Women should design the things they use.”
Learn more about Eva Zeisel in this TedTalk, Eva Zeisel: The Playful Search for Beauty
Image Top: Eva Zeisel, Covered Casserole, Pitcher, and Creamer, 1947, earthenware, made by Red Wing Potteries, Red Wing, Minnesota.