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Paul Bonifas


circa 1947

6.25 x 9.5 x 7.5 in.
Gift of the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation

Derived from the principles of purism, Paul Bonifas’s Tureen embodies his unique approach to functional ceramics. Purism, a rejection of cubism, was embraced by early twentieth-century modernism to emphasize the purity of geometric forms in art. The structured walls of Tureen, which swell gracefully outward and abruptly curve back inward at the rim, create a robust form that exudes strength and simplicity. The handles, simple in their vertical rectangular shape, have a slightly convex curve for utilitarian purposes. As a whole, Tureen bears more than a passing resemblance to classical Greek skyphos and Roman kantharos and kylix vessels. Bonifas had previously stated that “seven or eight perfect ceramic forms had been created many centuries before and could be called upon at will.” Made using molds, the handles lend a mechanical and architectural quality to the form, which in combination with Bonifas’s signature white crackle glaze, possesses a timelessness that typifies his unique style of ceramic production.

Bonifas was born in Geneva and attended l’École des Beaux-Arts de Genève while working for his father as an apprentice jeweler and engraver. He became interested in enamels, which exposed him to the glass and ceramic mediums. Between 1914 and 1922, Bonifas lived and worked in both Geneva and in Paris, where he became friends with the founders of French purism, Amédée Ozenfant and Le Corbusier. Bonifas was the secretary of the purist magazine L’Esprit Nouveau until he moved back to Geneva in 1922, when he purchased a pottery workshop. In 1946 he moved to the United States and taught at Washington State University until his retirement in 1959. He remained a dedicated maker and ceramic educator until he died in 1967 at the age of 73.

Ayla Murray

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