International Women's Day | The Artistic Legacy of Ilonka Karasz

Sworders’ Design department celebrates International Women’s Day highlighting the artistic legacy of Ilonka Karasz, an unsung heroine of the 20th century design period.


Sworders’ Design department celebrates International Women’s Day highlighting the artistic legacy of Ilonka Karasz, an unsung heroine of the 20th century design period.

In 1913, at the age of 17, Karasz left her home city of Budapest and immigrated to the United States, where she quickly established herself as a pioneer of multi-faceted modern design, co-founding the European-American artists' collective Society of Modern Art within a year of her arrival. She was also one of the first women admitted to the Hungarian Academy of Arts and Crafts.

During the 1920s she played a key role in several design guilds and societies, producing a vast range of complete interdisciplinary interiors with the sole purpose of elevating the standards of contemporary design. This high level of productivity earned her recognition in a field largely dominated by male designers and gained her praise for her extraordinary designs and diligent work practice. Her early work is clearly influenced by the Wiener Werkstätte aesthetic, and this would eventually translate into industrial practices.

 

Ilonka Karasz Teapot

 

This teapot, designed for Paye & Baker Manufacturing Company, sits at a midpoint in Karasz’s artistic career, combining influences of the two schools, and exhibiting industrial functionalism of early Bauhaus with the decorative splendour of high Art Deco.

The original complete tea-set, comprising 5 pieces, would have been cut from a singular reeded and fluted steel pipe in order to minimise waste and to maintain consistency across each piece. The result is a highly decorative and functional set, a design that stands the test of time, and is as stylish today as it was over 90 years ago.

Ilonka Karasz is perhaps best known for her illustrated covers of the New Yorker, but her larger production is the definition of interdisciplinary. She worked with every medium, from textile design, ceramics, and metalwork, to furniture design and illustrative arts. Some argue that this inconsistency, lacking a particular form or association, has led to her being lost to the echelons of design.

The Design department is delighted to have consigned this teapot, by an unsung yet iconic designer, contributing to the narrative of a maker that time forgot. It is to be offered for sale in our forthcoming Design auction on Wednesday 5 May, with an estimate of £600-900.

 


 

We continue to invite further entries of works by leading female icons to all of our forthcoming Design sales. To discuss an appraisal, please contact a member of the team - 

John Blackjohnblack@sworder.co.uk | 01279 817778

Otto Billström - ottobillstrom@sworder.co.uk | 01279 817778

 

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