Majolic masters today

Contemporary creative majolic in the western Slovakia

02 June - 12 September 2009

ÚĽUV Gallery, Obchodná 64, Bratislava

Production of majolic is one of the most important sectors of traditional folk culture of the western Slovakia. In its 400-year history, majolic art has come with wide range of products. In the view of continuity of development of this craft, many products have survived until now. The Majolic Masters Today is an exhibition the purpose of which is to demonstrate the contemporary appearance of this unique phenomenon. Selection of artworks from various authors demonstrates the most considerable aspects of majolic: links to tradition, purposeful regulation of development, decorativeness or utility, painting on majolic products, figurative plastic art and revival of stove building.

Production of majolic ceramics emerged with the Haban people who came to the territory of today´s Slovakia in the 16th century. Shapes and decorations of vessels changed with ever-changing economic, cultural and historical conditions. Originally purchased by rich people, the Haban ceramics reached the poorer and transformed into the Slovak folk majolic. Many centres of production emerged, for example in the villages of Boleráz, Dechtice, Košolná, Sobotište, Stupava. Manufactories, particularly a manufactory in the town of Holíč, significantly influenced development of majolic in the 18th century. Majolic developed into an exclusively folk production in the 19th century. Having become the most significant representative of the Slovak majolic art, a workshop in the town of Modra played the most important role in the 20th century. Modra is the centre with the most significant influence on contemporary development, particularly on the establishment of a school of ceramics. To become a skilled majolic maker, one needs to have necessary professional qualification. Graduates of the school in Modra have remained a rather numerous group of producers maintaining the tradition of majolic folk art production.
Majolic art derives its shapes and decorations from traditional Haban and Haban-Slovak ceramics. The first section of the exhibition displays ceramic artworks inspired by the oldest decors, reminding of strong links between the past and the present and of the way makers feel about jug making. Some products are copies of old originals and other products take them only as an inspiration. Artworks maintaining all traditional elements including a perfect shape and brilliantly-painted ornaments, animals and humans catch the attention.
Two organisations were forming the appearance of the majolic in the second half of the 20th century – The Slovak Folk Majolic Modra and The Centre for Folk Art Production (ÚĽUV). The workshop in Modra was forming an own style on the basis of the Haban and the Haban-Slovak ceramics for decades and was considerably influenced by artists and ceramic craft people who worked in the workshop. However, some ceramic makers favoured a different style of work and, since they could not have worked as sole traders at that time, the only way was to work as sole producers for ÚĽUV. Such producers achieved creative freedom, but faced a very strict products approval procedure. ÚĽUV has promoted traditional production, purity of which has been supervised by the commission of professionals. Besides, visual artists and producers have produced several special collections emphasizing a new approach to the utility majolic ceramics.
It is without discussion that contemporary majolic has its masters who are respectable followers of the traditional jug making in the western Slovakia. It is upon them if they decide for the return to the traditional decorations or for a new, creative approach. Anyway, top standard ceramics including majolic must be a result of craftsmanship, knowledge of technology and harmony between shapes and decorations. Meeting the above conditions is a prerequisite for contemporary production to become an interesting and new chapter in this hundred-year story of majolic.

Eva Ševčíková

ÚĽUV Gallery
Obchodná 64, Bratislava
Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 12.00 – 18.00
Saturday 10.00 – 14.00
free entrance