Date: Fri 25-Jun-1999
AA BOOK REVIEWS: Portugese Palissy Ware; Edgar Brandt, Master of Art Deco
Ironwork; Cowboy Culture, The Last Frontier of American Antiques; American Art
Portuguese Palissy Ware by Marshall P. Katz. Hudson Hills Press, New York, 144
pages; 159 color plates; 100 makers' marks, $75 hard cover.
By Amy D'Orio
You wouldn't eat off a painting. The same could be said of Palissy ware.
It may look like a cup or a plate, but it is truly a testament to ceramic
arts. Portuguese Palissy Ware , released in April, delves into the influence
of Bernard Palissy on Portuguese artisans and the town of Caldas da Rainha.
The book highlights the careers of Manuel Cipriano Gomes Mafra and Rafael
Bordalo Pinheiro, but also covers other major figures in the revival movement
in Portugal. From about 1853 to 1920, some 25 different factories in Portugal
produced a distinctive style of Palissy ware and the signature "moss"
background found only in the ceramics from that area. Interestingly, the
movement in Portugal, according to the author, was spawned independently from
the revival in France, which occurred a decade earlier.
While it focuses on nine different artisans, Portuguese Palissy Ware also
provides general historical background necessary to understanding the revival
movement. There are chapters on Palissy's life and times in France, as well as
the history of ceramics in Portugal. With 159 color plates, the book is
gorgeously illustrated and provides 100 makers' marks, a glossary, and
technical and pricing information.
Katz, who lives in Pittsburgh, is also a scholar of Palissy ware. He is the
co-author of Palissy Ware: Nineteenth-Century French Ceramists from Avisseau
to Renoleau .
Edgar Brandt: Master of Art Deco Ironwork by Joan Kahr. Harry N. Abrams, Inc.,
100 Fifth Avenue, N.Y., 10011, 240 pages, 232 illustrations, $60 hard cover .
Part of the mystique and charm of Paris lies with its architecture, and Edgar
Brandt certainly embellished the City of Lights with his great works of iron.
From Paul Poiret's house of couture to the Au Bon Marche department store to
the Louvre, Brandt's work is in full view for the world to see -- no admission
fee necessary. Released in April, this book is the first to focus on the world
famous Art Deco ironsmith.
Brandt (1880-1960) is credited with creating "an entirely new aesthetic for
the medium of wrought iron" that epitomizes Art Deco style. The author
stresses that Brandt was a virtuoso at using several materials, often
combining wrought iron with bronze or steel and patinating with gold and
silver. During his day, the craftsman operated a large showroom in Paris,
offering everything from grilles and fire screens to lamps, doors and tables.
Kahr not only conducted extensive interviews with the family, but Brandt's
son, Francois, writes a glowing introduction to the book, noting the author's
enthusiasm for his father's work:
"Relying on her considerable artistic sensibilities, her vision, and her
style, she has been able to analyze his work in such a way as to allow its
spirit to be revealed and explained. She has done honor and justice to my
Edgar Brandt also contains numerous illustrations, 60 in full color, and rare
Kahr has a master's degree in European decorative arts and specializes in
early Twentieth Century design. She has been a regular contributor to
Metalsmith magazine and has lectured specifically on French ironwork.
Cowboy Culture: The Last Frontier of American Antiques by Michael Friedman.
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd, 4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, Pa., 19310, 298
pages, $79.95 hardcover.
With a revised price guide, Michael Friedman takes on great Western
collectibles such as saddles, spurs, boots and guns in this second edition of
Cowboy Culture , released by Schiffer Publishing.
The author, a Connecticut resident, is an American antiques dealer
specializing in early American furniture and folk art. He notes in his preface
that the majority of cowboys were poor, and thus did not own many possessions,
often making their own "embellishments and decorations."
"[H]ere we find folk art of the common man," he writes.
Each of the book's 24 chapters focuses on a different item and showcases
objects from private collections, including Friedman's own. These sections
feature approximately a page of text for the reader, followed by numerous
color photographs of collectibles. Captions containing nuggets of information
are provided under each image, along with an approximate value.
Perhaps the most extensive chapter features saddles, and contains five
sections entitled: "Miniatures," "Vaquero," "Saddlebags," "Rope," and
"Ortega." A chapter on badges has "star" power, but none of the badges shown
had bullet holes -- maybe the outlaws weren't such good shots.
A chapter on bits was short, and two focusing on boots and hats seemed short
only because they were so much fun to peruse. A chapter on gambling
collectibles showcases some pretty fancy poker chips; it is a good bet this
revised edition would interest just about any American.
American Art Deco by Alastair Duncan. Thames and Hudson, Inc, 500 Fifth
Avenue, N.Y., 10110, pp 288, $34.95 paperback.
If you couldn't afford it in hard cover, Thames and Hudson has now released
American Art Deco in paperback.
The book covers the most important decorative style of the late 1920s and 30s
and its influence in America, with chapters on architecture, sculpture,
furniture, textiles, ceramics, silver, graphic arts and jewelry, lighting and
clocks, silver and industrial design. It also focuses on artists such as
Donald Deskey, Paul Manship, Walter von Nessen, Gilber Rohde, Russel Wright,
Duncan, an independent consultant specializing in the decorative arts of the
Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, discusses the dramatic effect of the 1929
stock market crash on Art Deco design in the United States, one which created
the new profession of the industrial designer to "restimulate" consumer buying
in the 1930s.
The American contribution of the skyscraper also cannot be ignored when
discussing Art Deco history. But despite its part in this important movement,
the author notes -- surprisingly -- that this country did not initially greet
Modernism with enthusiasm.
Although it contains 502 illustrations (233 of them in color), this is not
just a book full of pretty pictures. The pages of American Art Deco are chock
full of information for eager fans of this movement.