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    Description

    Viktor Schreckengost (American, 1906-2008)
    Danse Moderne Plate from the Jazz Series, Cowan Pottery, 1931
    Cast ceramic, black slip on white body with scraffito design, Egyptian blue transparent glaze
    11 inches (27.9 cm) in diameter
    Signed and inscribed on the reverse by the artist in 2004: Viktor / Schreckengost / Cowan / Pottery

    Property from The Wainwright Collection of American Modernism

    PROVENANCE:
    The artist;
    Caren Fine, Potomac, Maryland;
    Corcoran Fine Art Ltd., Cleveland, Ohio, 2003;
    Dod and Annie Wainwright, Fort Myers, Florida, acquired from the above, 2003.

    Celebrated industrial designer, ceramic artist, sculptor, and painter Viktor Schreckengost is perhaps best-known today as the creator of The Jazz Bowl, an American Art Deco ceramic masterpiece, which he designed in 1930. He was working for Cowan Pottery in Rocky River, Ohio at the time they had received a request from a female client of a New York gallery who specified she wanted a New Yorkish-themed punch bowl. Viktor was awarded the commission without knowing who the client was or having any other directives about the appearance the bowl should take. Having just returned recently a trip to New York, Viktor (a jazz aficionado who himself played the saxophone) had visited the Cotton Club and a show at the Radio City Music Hall. In considering what would be "New Yorkish" to him, he recalled, "It was this particular blue light that came over the city at night. With all the high buildings and the stop and go lights and the jazz bands that were playing... So, I started to put these ideas together." (Henry Adams, interview with Viktor Schreckengost, June 21, 1999, typescript p. 6-7, as quoted in Henry Adams, Viktor Schreckengost: American Da Vinci, Windsor, Connecticut, 2006, p. 17)

    For the bowl's imagery, Viktor's bowl drew upon his memories of skyscrapers, figures in top hats, cocktails teetering on tiny tables, wine bottles, ships on the Hudson, stylized musical instruments, and stars since all of this, in the artist's mind, was occurring at 3:30 am in a city that never sleeps. The images jostle together, collage-like, on the bowl, like snippets of dreams, seen from above, below, sideways. To achieve the effects of the nighttime blue, Viktor used a novel method of covering the hard, white molded vitreous clay with a brown-black slip that was sprayed over the whole surface. The decoration was then sketched out by Viktor and cut through the slip allowing the white body of the vessel to show through. After a bisque fire a deep blue-green Egyptian glaze was applied and then the piece was fired again.

    Once the finished gorgeous blue and black bowl was received in New York, the happy client wrote back. It was only then that Viktor learned she was Eleanor Roosevelt. As Viktor recalled, "The lady was crazy about the bowl and she wanted two more, one for Hyde Park and one for the White House-she was sure Franklin was going to win."

    Thus began the so-called Jazz Series by Viktor Schreckengost, which Cowan put into production. In addition to the two body shapes of the Jazz bowls (straight lipped and flared) which were issued in a few different varieties of decoration, Viktor created a series of matching Jazz plates, such as the present example, to go with his punch bowls. They were designed to create sets. The plates were produced in the same technical manner as the bowls. However, as Henry Adams has noted, "While all of the Jazz bowls and plates were first sketched out by Viktor, and all of the designs have slight differences owing to the sgraffito that was done by hand, it seems that Viktor likely has assistance with the work of scratching the design on the bowls because they were so much larger. There was a lot more handwork to do. On the plates, which were smaller, Viktor likely did all the sgraffito work." (Personal correspondence with Marianne Berardi, March 28, 2021)

    There are four known Jazz plate designs: Cocktails, Cocktails and Cigarettes, Danse Moderne, and New Yorker. While the plates were featured in a promotional flyer and in advertisements for Cowan Pottery, it seems that Cowan Pottery had folded before any of them were put into full production. All were issued in very small editions. With the exception of Danse Moderne, the present work, most of the Jazz plates have disappeared. There are only seven known Danse Moderne plates known today, including the present example and the unsigned example which sold through Heritage Auctions on August 18, 2020, lot 67009.

    Dod and Annie Wainwright had gotten to know Viktor Schreckengost personally in Cleveland, during the time he was thoroughly enjoying his late-career celebrity which resulted from the monumental retrospective exhibition of his work presented by The Cleveland Museum of Art in 2000-2001. Although well into his 90s, the artist showed up at the museum every day for the entire run of his retrospective, dapperly dressed in a suit and tie, and sat at a little table at the end of the show. There, he personally inscribed and signed catalogues for museum-goers, and made many new friends in the process.

    The Wainwrights acquired this rare plate two years following the exhibition, and saw that like most of Viktor's efforts for the Cowan factory, the plate was unsigned. Especially keen to have Viktor sign it, Annie remembers the circumstances of that event very fondly. "Viktor was 97 at the time, so he signed it in the car. His wife Gene drove him over, and we brought the plate out to him. He held it for a minute and said, 'Oh, this is a good one' then turned it over and with a Sharpie marker wrote his name with Cowan Pottery below it."


    Condition Report*: Under UV exam, there does not appear to be restoration. Signature and inscription by the artist (verso) was made in black marker on top of the glaze when the artist was 97, and signed at the request of the Wainwrights.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2021
    7th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 587

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