Italian ceramics 1945-1958 : a synthesis of avant-garde ideals, craft traditions and popular culture
Italy's post World War II art and artisan produce and her small and medium scale ceramic production between 1945 and 1958 has been characterised I by an apparent aesthetic synthesis of avant-garde ideals, craft traditions and popular culture. This thesis examines this particular occurrence through a multi and interdisciplinary approach. It has profited from the application of methodologies deriving from the different fields of history, ceramic-, art-, applied art-, design and architectural history and from information obtained from economic and naval histories and tourist guides. This has enabled on the one hand to explain this phenomenon and to situate the ceramic manufacturing sector and the objects within their socio-historical, economic and cultural framework and on the other to employ the objects themselves to challenge dominant ideas within contemporary design-, art-, craft- and ceramic history. The majority of the data that informs this work derives from the analysis of primary sources collected and researched in Italy such as the objects and works themselves, contemporary magazines, archives and interviews. Whilst the time-span has been defined by the perceived birth and decline of the synthesis phenomenon, the period studied in this thesis includes a brief introduction to the tradition and revival of Italy's post-unification ceramic culture and industry and the general aesthetic and artistic developments which have significantly influenced the post 1945 developments. This is followed by an in-depth account of the aesthetic panorama of Italian ceramics between 1945 and 1958 through the works of its protagonists and an analysis of ceramics used as an ornamental medium in architectural structures and modem interior decorating schemes and exteriors. Another part analyses the ceramic industry from a production, economical, commercial and consumption point of view and establishes its significant role not only in relation to Italy's overall economic reconstruction efforts but in the creation of the image that constituted the ideals associated with the 'Made in Italy' label. The last part examines Italian ceramic culture between 1945 and 1958 in its contemporary design, art and craft context. It will present the history of Italian material culture and design as based on an evolutionary model which is incompatible with modernist-lead design histories. In addition, this thesis challenges the under-representation of Italian ceramics within 20th century British ceramic, art, craft and design history and the British approach to ceramic writing and aims to incite further multi and interdisciplinary approach to the history of design.