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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

From Museum Storage–Wiener Werkstätte Vase

Hilda Jesser (Austrian, 1894–1985), for Wiener Werkstätte, Vase, ca. 1921. Hand-painted earthenware, 9 1/4 x 3 3/8 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Daniel Morris and Denis Gallion, Historical Design, New York City, M2002.104. Photo by John R. Glembin.

I’ve just learned that Hilda Jesser could design anything.

Correction: I’ve just learned who Hilda Jesser was.

To back up, I should explain that I often use this blog as an excuse to explore something in the Museum’s collection that I should know more about. This colorful ceramic vase is charming, but I’ve never selected it to go on view in the galleries because I wasn’t quite certain how to explain it.

Thanks to the markings on its base and the curatorial cataloging records here at the Museum, I knew that the vase was designed by Hilda Jesser while at the Wiener Werkstätte sometime around 1921.

But it doesn’t look anything like my preconceived notion of what Wiener Werkstätte ceramic designs would look like, so how could I select it to represent that influential moment in modern design history?

It was time to find out more.