Wilhelm Kåge – the functionalist,
who created world-class art pottery
Wilhelm Kåge (1889-1960), Sweden, studied decorative painting at the Technical School in Stockholm and was subsequently on several schools of painting in Europe. At the beginning of his career he made posters. But he was also interested in ceramics, and in 1917 he was appointed the artistic director of Gustavsberg, although he has not had any ceramic education.
Wilhelm Kåge was a child of functionalism and functionalist ceramics should have a good industrial shape, a simple clear decoration, good durability and it should be affordable. This was the task, and Kåge designed several series of dinnerware from the philosophy. The best known and most popular dinnerset is "Pyro", which came in 1930. It is stackable and ovenproof and came in gradually 200 parts.
In 1930 Gustavsberg presented for the first time Argenta, art ceramics designed by Wilhelm Kåge. The Argenta series was probably the most popular art pottery produced in Sweden, and it was sold to large parts of the world. The green glaze (copper oxide) was decorated with silver inlay, and the decorations were in art deco style: Lightly dressed dancing ladies, fish,, mermaids, and dragons.
In the early 1940s Kåge had success with a completely new and modern design. It was the "Surrea" series - bowls vases and pots in staggered forms. It was produced in pure white Carrara clay - so it was the shape alone accounted for decoration. It was also the case for the "Våga" series from 1950, where the forms, however, were more organic.
Already in the late 1920s Wilhelm Kåge began experiments with high-fired stoneware - the so-called "Farstagods". In 1949 he left the artistic leadership to Stig Lindberg, just to concentrate on Farsta. It is stoneware with a heavy expression and with a characteristic ornamentation and shape. There is no doubt when you see it - and today Farsta is regarded as the best ever created in the Swedish art and craft industry.