LAMA BLOG

Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Hand-Selected by Otto

October 10, 2013

Gertrud & Otto Natzler pulled off a rare feat for craftspeople. Over a period of three decades, the duo created an estimated 25,000 works in ceramic, each piece carefully made by hand.

Natzler Ceramics, Leopold and Patricia Hirschfeldt Collection

The extraordinary thing is that in addition to monumental exhibition examples that took months and years to complete, they also were able to produce small, affordable works to be sold in department stores. In this sale, there are even several pieces of Dunbar furniture that feature their tiles as elegant appointments. I can’t think of any other craftsmen of the era that were able to so successfully collaborate with a major manufacturer in this way. Yes, Nakashima designed a line for Widdicomb and Knoll, as did other craftspeople. But the Natzler pieces weren’t manufactured, they were the actual studio works that had to be formed and glazed by hand. 

Janus large chest (designed 1956), Edward Wormley

Detail of Natzler tiles, Janus large chest (designed 1956), Edward Wormley

Custom lamp table (designed 1956), Edward Wormley

One of the fabled outlets for the Natzlers’ work was the Dalzell Hatfield Gallery. The Hatfields worked tirelessly to promote the Natzlers and are widely given credit for getting the work into early exhibitions at LACMA and other major museums. The gallery handled the sale of at least 5,000 works by some accounts. In addition to the five pieces from the Hatfields’ personal collection, there are ten pieces from the collection of Leopold and Patricia Hirschfeldt.

Patricia and Leo Hirschfeldt

Home of Leopold and Patricia Hirschfeldt, Los Angeles

The Hirschfeldts first moved to Los Angeles in 1950, and after marrying, the couple bought their home – a bungalow with hand-carved ceilings designed by a Mexican architect – on South Carmelina Avenue in Brentwood in 1955. During numerous trips to the desert, they became interested in Navajo and Zuni pottery, and Leo would return from family visits in Stockholm with sets of miniature pottery.

Cylindrical bottle with long conical neck and lip (executed 1959),
Leopold and Patricia Hirschfeldt Collection

Miniature vases (5) (executed 1955-56),
Leopold and Patricia Hirschfeldt Collection

As their enthusiasm for ceramics grew, the Hirschfeldts became good friends with the Natzlers. Through this friendship, the couple amassed an impressive collection of bowls and pots, including a group of rare miniatures that Gertrud could only form with her fingertips when she developed an elbow inflammation. She produced these miniatures for only one year, from 1965-66. In addition to “Form and Fire,” these miniatures were featured in “Masterpieces on a Small Scale” at Bullock’s Gallery on Wilshire in 1966. This diverse collection of Natzler ceramics includes brilliant glazes and delicate forms, and spans one of the most productive and successful decades of the Natzlers’ career.

Bottle vase (executed 1963), Leopold and Patricia Hirschfeldt Collection

Bowl (executed 1962), Leopold and Patricia Hirschfeldt Collection

I can say with confidence that the Natzler ceramics included in Sunday’s auction are the best we’ve ever had the privilege to offer. There’s just a few preview days left to view these incredible works in person.

Ceramic vase (executed 1961), Estate of Ruth and Dalzell Hatfield

Lot Information:

Lot 49
Edward Wormley
Janus large chest
Designed 1956
Dunbar
Walnut, brass, glazed ceramic
Model no. 5727
Retains gold Dunbar tag
With inset ceramic tiles by Gertrud & Otto Natzler
42″ x 60″ x 19.25″
Literature: Janus Series Catalogue. Chicago: Dunbar Furniture Company, 1957, p 60.
Estimate: $3,000 – 5,000

Lot 52
Edward Wormley
Custom lamp table
Designed 1956
Dunbar
Walnut, glazed ceramic
Model no. 5742N
Retains gold Dunbar tag
With inset ceramic tiles by Gertrud & Otto Natzler
8″ x 30.25″ x 22.25″
Literature: Janus Series Catalogue. Chicago: Dunbar Furniture Company, 1957, p 88.
Estimate: $8,000 – 12,000

Lot 55
Gertrud & Otto Natzler
Cylindrical bottle with long conical neck and lip
Executed 1959
Studio
Dark blue crystalline glaze
Signed “Natzler” and retains paper inventory label “K276″
10.25″ x 4″ diameter (27 cm x 10 cm diameter)
Provenance:  Property from the Leopold and Patricia Hirschfeldt Collection; Thence by descent
Exhibited: Saint Paul Art Center, Minnesota, 1960; “The Ceramic Work of Gertrud and Otto Natzler,” MH de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, July 24-September 6, 1971; “Form and Fire, Natzler Ceramics 1939-1972,” Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, 1973
Illustrated: Keith, Graeme, ed. The Ceramic Work of Gertrud and Otto Natzler. San Francisco: MH de Young Memorial Museum, 1971. p 14.
Literature: Taylor, Joshua, ed. Form and Fire: Natzler Ceramics 1939-1972. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1973. p 47.
Estimate: $15,000 – 20,000

Lot 60
Gertrud & Otto Natzler
Miniature vases (5)
Executed 1965-66
Studio
Gray-green and sang reduction glaze, red glaze, gray-blue and peach blossom reduction glaze, azure oxidation glaze, and ivory celadon  reduction glaze
Three signed “n”, the largest signed “GNO”; each retains individual paper inventory labels “B14”, “C18”, “A27”, “A36”, “A07″
Together with four Bullock’s Wilshire issued certificates from time of purchase
Largest: 2.5” high (6 cm)
Provenance: Property from the Leopold and Patricia Hirschfeldt Collection; Thence by descent
Exhibited: “Form and Fire, Natzler Ceramics 1939-1972,” Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, 1973 (B14, A07, C18)
Illustrated: Keith, Graeme, ed. The Ceramic Work of Gertrud and Otto Natzler. San Francisco: MH de Young Memorial Museum, 1971. p 101 (B14, A07, C18).
Estimate: $12,000 – 15,000

Lot 61
Gertrud & Otto Natzler
Bottle vase
Executed 1963
Studio
Cat’s Eye reduction glaze with ash deposits
Signed “Natzler” and retains paper inventory label “M671″
8″ x 7” diameter (21 cm x 17 cm diameter)
Provenance: Property from the Leopold and Patricia Hirschfeldt Collection; Thence by descent
Exhibited: “Ceramics by Gertrud and Otto Natzler,” Traveling Exhibition: San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, July 2-August 18, 1963; Saint Paul Art Center, Minnesota, November 22-January 2, 1964; Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York, July 15-October 10, 1964
Estimate: $10,000 – 15,000

Lot 64
Gertrud & Otto Natzler
Bowl
Executed 1962
Studio
Orange-red crater glaze
Signed “Natzler” and retains paper inventory label “M300″
4.5″ x 6” diameter (11.5 cm x 15.5 cm diameter)
Provenance: Property from the Leopold and Patricia Hirschfeldt Collection; Thence by descent
Exhibited: Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign, 1962; “Ceramics by Gertrud and Otto Natzler,” Traveling Exhibition: the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, April 13-June 9, 1963; San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, July 2-August 18, 1963; Saint Paul Art Center, Minnesota, November 22-January 2, 1964; Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York, July 15-October 10, 1964
Estimate: $7,000 – 9,000

Lot 333
Gertrud & Otto Natzler
Ceramic vase
Executed 1961
Studio
Turquoise green matte glaze
Signed “Natzler” and retains paper inventory label “L555″
9″ x 4.5” diameter (23.25 cm x 11 cm diameter)
Provenance: The Estate of Ruth and Dalzell Hatfield, Los Angeles, California; Thence by descent
Estimate: $5,000 – 7,000

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