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Paul Bonifas


circa 1947

6 x 9.5 x 7.25 in.
Gift of the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation

Derived from the principles of Purism, Paul Bonifas’ Tureen embodies his unique approach to functional ceramics. Purism was embraced in early 20th century modernism to emphasize the purity of geometric forms in art and it was a rejected of cubism. The structured walls, which swell gracefully outwards and abruptly curve back inwards at the rim, is a robust form that exudes strength and simplicity. The handles, located on opposing sides of the belly of the form, are simple in their vertical rectangular shape with 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, possibly owing to the fact that 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’ signature white crackle glaze and exposed dark clay body, possesses a timelessness that typifies his unique style of ceramic production.

Bonifas was born on November 11, 1893 in Geneva Switzerland and attended Ecole de Beaux-Arts de Geneve while working for his father as an apprentice jeweler and engraver. While doing so, he became interested in enamels, which exposed him to glass and ceramic media. Between 1914 and 1922, Bonifas lived and worked in both Geneva and Paris, where he became friends with the founders of French Purism, Amedee 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 he retired in 1959. He remained a dedicated maker and ceramic educator until he passed away in 1967 at the age of 73.

Ayla Murray

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