WILHELM KÅGE ARGENTA VASE WITH SILVER OVERLAY FOR GUSTAVSBERG (B)
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A beautiful 'Argenta' stoneware vase in the classic green/teal glaze, designed in the late 1920s by Wilhelm Kåge for Gustavsberg, Sweden. This footed example flares from the bottom to the top, and is decorated with a floral motif that is hand painted in pure silver, as are the rim of the foot and the top opening. The silver retains its original patina, and the vase is fully marked on the ground.
ALGOT WILHELM KÅGE (1889-1960) was born in 1889 and died in 1960 in Stockholm. He was a Swedish artist, painter and ceramicist who studied decorative painting at the Technical School, later known as the School of Art Konstfack, in Stockholm (never graduating), and subsequently at the Valand Academy in Gothenburg, where he studied under Scandinavian painters Carl W. Wilhelmson and Johan Rodhe. He continued his studies in Munich, perfecting his skills as an illustrator. During the first world war, he gained notoriety in Sweden for his colorful posters for theaters, lotteries, and exhibitions. Wilhelm’s poster art attracted the attention of the Gustavsberg porcelain factory. The factory was hoping to revive interest in its production and sought out artists with new ideas. Wilhelm accepted the offer, despite his lack of experience in clay, throwing, and glazing. His task was to add an artistic touch to the factory’s functional items. The company’s gamble on Wilhelm would pay great dividends. Within a year, Wilhelm Kåge had created the functional service series, "Liljebla" (Lily Blue). The forms, with their flowing blue decor, were simple yet reminiscent of 18th-century Swedish ceramics. The tableware series was a success at the Liljevalchs Exhibition in 1917, which is noted as the birthplace of the modern Swedish art industry. It was the first time artists and industries came together to create beautiful yet practical home decor. After the exhibition, Wilhelm was appointed artistic leader for Gustavsberg, a position he maintained until 1949, when he was succeeded by Stig Lindberg 1916-1982).
During the 1920s and 1930s, Wilhelm Kåge developed new glazes and designs for over thirty different tableware sets. The designs followed functionalistic ideas regarding rational production and multi-functional parts. Wilhelm's most popular dinnerware series was “Gra rander" (Gray Stripes) from 1945. It was lauded as "soft-form dinnerware” and was a commercial success for over two decades. In the 1920s, Wilhelm created the Argenta series, which was his first artistic success, as well as his first successful foray into ceramics, and included everything from ashtrays ,crocks, bowls, and vases, to 60 kg urns. Argenta was first shown at the groundbreaking Stockholm Exhibition in 1930, where Swedish artists, craftsmen and companies showed their latest products. Here, Argenta was considered the ceramics equivalent of engraved Orrefors glass. It soon became a major sales success. The series was produced from 1930 into the 1970's, although it had its heyday in the 1940s. The series with silver decorations on a green glaze is counted as the epitome of Swedish Grace. The first Argenta objects were manufactured in flint but later in stoneware, and the early products were hand painted by Kage himself using his own secret silver formula, but demand soon dictated that Gustavsberg expand, and by the late 1930s over 30 people were dedicated solely to the painting of Argenta. The green Argenta was the major product, but rare red, brown and blue versions were also produced.
Undeniably, Kåge did his best work with the very exclusive and unique Farsta stoneware which comprises his most exclusive pottery artwork. It was also first presented at the Stockholm Exhibition of 1930. The handmade Farsta pieces – totally unique in both their shape and glaze – were then crafted until the 1950s in the Gustavsberg studio, and consciously refined and improved all along the way. The stoneware clay for the artwork was collected from the Farsta bay close to the Gustavsberg factory. The objects were therefore incised on the ground with “Farsta”. The breadth of the collection is striking – ranging from miniature to large-scale. There are vases and urns, sculptures, ashtrays, and half-meter high pieces. The Wilhelm Kåge Farsta objects all share a discernible presence and aura of quality. The fired Farsta pieces were dipped in a bath with metal oxides which were drawn into the clay. The pieces were then glazed and fired again. The oxides were drawn out by the heat to lend the glaze a layered texture with magnificent color effects. The Wilhelm Kage Farsta pieces fell into oblivion during the 1960s and 1970s. But since the 1980s, the pieces are again regarded as nobility in the world of Swedish pottery, and as such can be quite expensive.
Wilhelm Kåge initiated the Gustavsberg studio at Gustavberg in 1942, which would become the creative hub of the ceramic factory. The high-quality sets were marked with the Gustavsberg studio hand in different colors. Wilhelm mainly added the studio hand in brown. In 1949, Wilhelm relinquished his role as artistic director to his colleague, Stig Lindberg, although he continued his studio work at Gustavberg until his death in 1960. He is remembered as Gustavberg’s ceramic king, who for more than 40 years, guided the factory through the shifting tide of 20th century style trends and into modern times.
Kåge’s work can be found in the National Museum and the Royal Library in Stockholm, the Industrial Art museums in Oslo, Copenhagen, Vienna, Budapest and Prague, and at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
GUSTAVSBERG PORCELAIN FACTORY was, for many decades, the largest ceramics maker in Sweden and home to some of the most innovative and ingenious makers of the past century. The company, Founded in 1825 on a site that was originally a brickworks, mass-produced a wide range of products. Gustavsberg began producing some individually crafted, highly decorated and richly glazed pieces in the 1860s. While the forms of their mass-produced vessels and plates derived from English, Continental and Asian styles, a select few painters won acclaim for their personal artistry. Gunnar Wennerberg became known for his work in the organic Art Nouveau style, and Josef Ekberg, the company’s design chief from 1908 to 1917, was revered for his expert use of iridescent lusterware glazes and the sgraffito technique, in which a decorative pattern is incised in the surface of a clay pot before it is glazed and fired.
At the turn of the century in 1900 over eight hundred people were employed at the works. The factory was sold to the Swedish Cooperative Union in 1937 and a new facility was built to manufacture sanitary porcelain bathroom fixtures, including the first pressed-steel bathtubs that would oust heavy cast iron. But of first interest to collectors are the remarkable decorative works created in the Gustavsberg art pottery studio, in particular those by master ceramicists Wilhelm Kåge, Berndt Friberg, and Stig Lindberg.
It was not until Ekberg’s successor, Wilhelm Kåge, opened Gustavsberg’s first dedicated art pottery studio that the work became widely recognized. Kåge’s “Argenta” series, which encompasses a variety of vessels coated with an oxidized green glaze and decorated in silver motifs, remains popular. Though perhaps his most striking works are his 'Surrea' vases — white bisque porcelain in off-kilter forms inspired by Cubist paintings — and his “Farsta” wares, which include totemic, spindly footed stoneware vases and bowls with textured surfaces, glazed in brown, green and blue.
Kåge’s finest protégés, Berndt Friberg and Stig Lindberg, took over from Kåge as Gustavsberg’s design directors in 1945. Friberg was a master potter. He threw elegant, simple, symmetrical vases and bowls painstakingly coated in layer after layer of matte glazing to achieve a classic striated effect known as “rabbit’s fur.” Lindberg’s highly collectible studio ceramics fall into two principal categories: The first is made of white porcelain pieces in round, biomorphic or stylized natural forms. The second includes weightier vases — many with textured bodies and applied decorations — glazed in deep, earthy colors. Gustavsberg was a bastion of creativity and precise artistry that turned out a remarkable range of works whose style still resonates with lovers of Scandinavian Design.
In 1987 Gustavsberg was bought by the Finnish company Arabia and in 1988 it was combined with Rörstrand as Rörstrand-Gustavsberg AB.
|Design Period||1920 to 1949|
|Country of Manufacture||Sweden|
|Identifying Marks||This piece has an attribution mark|
|Style||Vintage, Scandinavian Modern, Art Deco, Modernist|
|Detailed Condition||Excellent — This vintage piece is in near original condition. It may show minimal traces of use and/or have slight restorations.|