Karl Duldig’s ceramic bowl is a particularly interesting example of Karl’s ability to creatively respond to a new environment with a fresh visual repertoire, in this case, the flowering Eucalyptus in a design reminiscent of traditional European folk art. The bowl is an excellent example of the utilitarian and decorative studio pottery produced by Karl and his wife Slawa Horowitz-Duldig between 1944 and 1960.
Clay was an important medium for Karl. When he was forced to flee Austria for Switzerland, working with clay became a convenient medium; and he continued to expand his use of clay in Singapore. In Australia his work in clay extended from domestic hand-made pottery to public sculptures and architectural reliefs.
In 1944 Duldig purchased a kiln, which was installed in the garage of the family’s St. Kilda flat, soon after a pottery wheel was acquired. It was the beginning of a cottage industry that supplemented the family income during the war years and beyond. Duldig initially sold his decorative ceramic wares through a local florist in St. Kilda, and subsequently through shops such as the Chez Nous French Art Shop (Howey Place) and Light and Shade (Royal Arcade), and the Primrose Pottery shop in Collins Street. The Primrose Pottery shop was an extremely important commercial outlet, and hub, for emerging artists, potters and designers from 1929 until 1974. Its proprietors Edith and Betty MacMillan worked closely with their suppliers, commissioning and taking items on consignment. In the post war period important Melbourne studio potters such as Allan Lowe, Arthur Boyd, John Perceval and Neil Douglas exhibited and sold domestic wares in the Primrose Pottery shop.
The Duldigs studio pottery provides a counterpoint to the ceramics produced at Arthur Merric Boyd Pottery in Murrumbeena, which was established in 1944 by Arthur Boyd, John Perceval and Peter Herbst. The emphasis on painterly decoration was important and the AMB potters also produced simple household wares decorated with Australian flora and wildlife, for example Neil Douglas also made small bowls decorated with the fairy wrens, lyrebirds, gumnuts and eucalypts.
Ann Carew 2016
The Duldig Studio’s collection of ceramics has national aesthetic and historic significance. It contains a representative sample of works of art in ceramics created by Karl Duldig during his lifetime, including small sculptures, as well as functional and novelty items for the tourist market during the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. The artist’s working methods and the development of his practice are comprehensively demonstrated in the collection. This in-situ collection demonstrates the philosophy of the Vienna Secession and its inheritors that handcrafted, simple functional domestic wares might enrich both the lives of the maker and the user.
This bowl is part of a collection of ceramics that has national historic significance in providing a rich illustration of an immigrant and artistic experience, and touching on the themes of settlement adaptation of artistic practice. The collection is also associated with places of cultural and historical significance in Melbourne such as the Primrose Pottery Shop, and the story of Australian studio ceramics in the post-war years.
Ann Carew 2016
Cream earthenware bowl with flowering gum motif and sponged green background.
Duldig in script incised under.