One of the most recognizable and enduring aspects of Danish culture is its porcelain. Art Nouveau Innovation: Danish Porcelain from an American Collector presents the fascinating history of Danish porcelain, including the technical and artistic successes that revolutionized porcelain production worldwide. Over 100 original porcelain works, on loan from the collection of Dr. Todd Reiser, will be on view at the Dubuque Museum of Art through June 5. The exhibition is organized by the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa.
The Art Nouveau period was a renaissance of Danish porcelain, marked by technical and artistic innovations at an unprecedented level of excellence. Now renowned for its ceramic industry, Denmark earned its status as a leading porcelain exporter through intense rivalry with firms in Russia and across Europe. Denmark’s factories produced superior porcelain time and time again for the largest international expositions of the 19th and early 20th centuries, putting Danish culture on the world stage.
Like many artists of the Art Nouveau period, the designers and painters of Danish porcelain absorbed and reflected an interest in the natural world and cultures from around the globe. Flower patterns and elegant animal shapes from bats to polar bears add an unexpected whimsy to the collection, and the influence of Japanese prints can be seen in many works.
The objects in this exhibition showcase porcelain from Danish manufacturers Royal Copenhagen and Bing & Grøndahl from the 1880s through the 1920s. Founded in 1775, Royal Copenhagen is one the oldest porcelain manufacturers still in operation today. Throughout its history, the factory has experienced numerous highs and lows, and has weathered more than 130 years of competition from the Bing & Grøndahl Porcelain Factory. After 1882, the two factories were located less than a mile apart, with their flagship stores eventually competing side-by-side for sales in the heart of Copenhagen. Both Royal Copenhagen and Bing & Grøndahl explored new forms, new techniques, and new artistic influences. From 1885 to 1920, both manufacturers reached new heights of artistic achievement, winning numerous awards along the way. Their output influenced the work of companies across Europe and created a global market for Danish porcelain.
As the popularity of the Art Nouveau style faded after the 1920s, Danish porcelain evolved and continued to be popular. Collectors like Dr. Reiser’s family often cross generations. Dr. Reiser explains, “I was actually born into this, and I was used to a house filled with Danish porcelain. Growing up, I became more interested in what my father was collecting.” To this day, heirloom and modern Danish pieces grace display cabinets and dining room tables in homes throughout the world.
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What do you collect? The impulse to collect is human. It connects us to our past and takes us on a journey of self-discovery. In this video, seasoned storytellers share heartfelt and humorous stories of their personal collections.