Pottery is often regarded as the most humble of materials, originating not just from the soil, but composed of it entirely. At their best, potters, kilns, and decorators perform alchemy on clay, transforming the earth into utilitarian vessels, art objects, or both. Among potters working in the post war period of the 20th century, French ceramicist Georges Jouve was among the most highly skilled in this regard. Freeman's is pleased to offer two fine examples of his Oiseaux (each circa 1950) in our October 16 auction Design. These birds were gracing a console table in the living room at a local estate when they were spotted by 20th Century Design department head, Tim Andreadis. They had descended in the family’s collection, purchased by the consignor’s parents, but information about their designer or origin was unknown. The consignor’s parents traveled in Europe and likely acquired these birds while on one of their trips to France. The family also had a rare ceramic charger by Guido Gambone, also to be offered in the October 16 Design sale.
Georges Jouve was born in 1910 in Fontenaysous- Bois, France, an eastern suburb of Paris. Jouve had a predisposition toward art and enrolled at the École Boulle. Named for the famous late 17th/early 18th century ébéniste André-Charles Boulle, the school taught craft and applied arts to a bourgeoning generation of French youth. Jouve graduated in 1930 and also completed courses at Académie Julian and Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Following his formal education, he pursued a career in the theater as a set designer. However, his artistic ambitions were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II; he was taken prisoner by German forces and interned at a concentration camp.
Improbably, Jouve escaped his captors and fled to Nyon, in the southeast region of France, just a short distance from the potters’ village of Dieulefit. Drawing on his tutelage as a sculptor and the influence of the area, he began making pottery works, adopting vernacular forms with a traditional galena, lead-based green glaze. Jouve sold his works through both local and Parisian galleries, gaining the attention of designer Jacques Adnet, who invited him to participate in an exhibition of contemporary ceramics organized by the Compagnie des Arts Francais (French Arts Company) founded by the master ébénistes of the Art Deco period, Louis Süe and André Mare, which catered to an intellectual and artistic elite. By 1945 as the war had deescalated, Jouve moved his family to Paris where he opened a permanent ceramic studio in the Rue de la Tombe-Issiore. Jouve’s works gained the attention of his contemporaries including Guidette Carbonell, Pol Chambost, and Denyse Gatard. He exhibited in Rio, Milan, Barcelona, Rome, Munich, Washington and Zurich in addition to a number of the Parisian salons.
Jouve’s works were at the forefront of French ceramic artistry in the immediate post-war period. Much of his early output was figurative, adopting animal or human shapes, but his most soaring examples from the 1950s and 60s bend toward abstraction. Enhanced by yellow, black or white glazes, familiar forms adopted exaggerated proportions and a playful come-hither. Their sophistication and refined beauty is attributed to glazes that compliment, rather than compete with, his asymmetrical ceramic forms. Jouve relocated again in 1954 to Aix-en-Provence, just north of Marseille and the Mediterranean coast. He continued to work there until his untimely death in 1964.
Georges Jouve (French 1910-1964) Oiseaux, circa 1951. Sold for a combined $67,500 in the 10/16/16 DESIGN auction.