In the 20th century, art pottery, particularly in Europe, appears almost schizophrenic. Swedish pottery produced in the first half of the century have strong Art Nouveau and Art Deco influences, while Danish ceramics embraced a modernist aesthetic even before the Mid-Century Modern movement took hold after World War II. The largest ceramics factory in Sweden was Gustavsberg, whose leading designer at the end of the 19th and through the first half of the 20th centuries was Josef Ekberg. Early Ekberg vases featured floral and Art Nouveau decorations using the sgrafitto technique. Later pieces from the 1920s had less decoration but were often fired in iridescent glazes. Ekberg's protege, Wilhelm Kage, is known for his tall, geometric spindle vases, which sit on incised bases resembling small inverted flower pots. Even more modernist was the work of Berndt Friberg and Stig Lindberg, but Gustavsberg's most recognized designer is undoubtedly Lisa Larson, who produced stoneware menageries of domestic, farm, and wild animals for the company from 1954 to 1980. Today, Larson and her assistants continue to produce work in her studio. The other major Swedish pottery was Rorstrand, whose stoneware from the 1940s and '50s by Gunnar Nylund evolved from Art Deco-inspired pieces to the biomorphic sloped bowls and bulbous vases for which Rorstrand is so renowned. Another mid-century Rorstrand designer, Carl-Harry Stalhane, pursued a more geometric look, producing vases in the 1950s that, in hindsight, resemble the shapes of NASA landing modules in the 1960s. The tradition of art pottery in Denmark is even stronger.

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