A xel Salto, whose work appears in Sotheby's upcoming Design sale on 16 October, was one of the most celebrated ceramic artists of the 20th Century. He was best known for translating his fascination with nature into striking vases. After graduating from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, the artist initially began his career as a painter. It was in Paris, where he met Picasso and Matisse, that he became interested in modernism and founded Kingen (The Blade) in 1917, a respected journal that explored the modernist movement in Denmark.
Salto discovered ceramics much later in his career, when the manufacturer Bing & Grøndahl requested his designs for the 1925 International Exhibition in Paris. The works were well received and Salto went on to work with Carl Hallier at his Frederiksberg studio, at Saxbo ceramics and at Royal Copenhagen. Many of Salto’s works are now held in collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the V&A.
An important and rare example of Salto’s naturalistic, organic works is the ‘Colossal’ vase. The work embodies the artist’s intimate relationship with his chosen material of clay. It is fitting that he chose to establish his naturalistic designs on this material that originated from the very earth that so inspired him. The earthy rich glaze reinforces this connection while referencing ancient Asian traditions.
Salto’s relationship with nature is clear: ‘The sprouting style… expresses a movement, a growth… there is an inner urge in things which must come out… The vase is like a living organism; the body buds, the buds develop, and sprouting, even prickly, vases are a result of this life.’ The artist writes these words in Den Spirende Stil (The Sprouting Style), a special and limited publication produced on the occasion of his 60th birthday in 1949, where the present lot and its associated sketch are both illustrated together.
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