With the growing middle classes in the West from the time of the Industrial Revolution during the second half of the nineteenth century, design and art gained importance as they became available to a broader, more affluent society. Since then, the manufacturing and retail of ceramic dinner services, vases and other domestic goods reach unprecedented heights, and so the stylistic qualities of, now, mass-produced goods were both appreciated—and largely advertised and distributed—and criticised by more artistically-minded consumers who feared a loss of artistic and ’material’ value. Consequently, the Arts and Crafts Movement and later individual and group initiatives gained momentum and offered ‘honest’, hand-made alternatives to an ever-increasing clientele.
Art ceramics form a part of a larger group of media, such as furniture and textiles, and they present ceramic materials in different styles, manufacturing processes and, most importantly, as art. So strong grew the interest in artistic communities that masters of unrelated genre—including painters like Picasso—engaged with clay, and individually and in collaboration with experts created some of the most remarkable ceramic sculptures in recent design history. A material that began its fame in small and often vernacular workshops returned to the artists’ ateliers and regained importance as one of the supreme catalysts of artistic expression.
A scholar of Western European art, Dr. Knothe is the Director of the University Museum and Art Gallery (UMAG). He received his PhD with a thesis on the royal manufacture and production of art and propaganda in 17th century France. From 2005-2008, he worked as research fellow and associate in European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. During his appointment in 2009 as curator of European glass at The Corning Museum of Glass, he devoted time to research his long-established interests in cross-cultural influences in art and workshop practices in Western Europe and East Asia. This work culminated in his "East Meets West" exhibition in 2010, and related lectures and conference papers that were presented in the US, Europe, Asia and Africa. In his role as Director, Dr. Knothe aims to connect UMAG internationally so that future collection-oriented research and programming reflect the university’s unique geographic and cultural position between East and West.