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Design Icon: Eva Zeisel Museum Dinner Service

by Maxwell Tielman


Design: Museum Dinner Service

Designer: Eva Zeisel (1906-2011)

Date: 1942-45

Country of Origin: United States

Manufacturer: Castleton China Co.

Materials: Glazed Porcelain

Background: Zeisel, born in Hungary, fled to the United States in 1938 to avoid the Nazis. In New York, she created a name for herself as a master ceramicist, founding Pratt Institute’s ceramics department and becoming the first woman to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Zeisel stood apart from previous ceramicists in that her focus was on modern items intended for industrial production—the title of her MoMA exhibition was “Eva Zeisel: Designer for Industry.” The Museum Dinner service was commissioned specifically by the Museum of Modern Art as part of a competition and went on to be sold in its store. The service was notable for melding classic items with a pared down, modernist aesthetic. With no ornamentation aside from its own smooth, organic forms, the Museum Dinner service appealed to those with a Modernist eye, looking for a clean break from the stuffy, ornamented dinnerware of yesteryear.

Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg.

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