Discussion at Limoges Market by Kenneth Bates

Discussion at Limoges Market by Kenneth Bates
Discussion at Limoges Market by Kenneth Bates

Enameling has been considered a minor art throughout Europe for centuries, except in places where there was an enormous tradition in the realization of this type of work and where the best specialists took refuge. And in this sense the French population of Limoges has always been an example.

And if this happened in Europe, it was even more pronounced in United States, where enamels were considered a mere decorative element, which could be handcrafted for delicate objects like jewelry, like industrial in architectural ornaments.


Discussion at Limoges Market by Kenneth Bates

However, that situation was going to change from the 20s of the last 20th century. Something that had several people in charge, but especially Kenneth Bates (1904 – 1994). A character who not only made works like this one that we see here en titled Discussion in the Limoges market, but also took care to spread the benefits and techniques of enameling throughout the country. That is to say, he carried out a didactic work to which all the American enamellers of the following generations are indebted. Among them, the other two great artists of this technique were Karl Drerup (1904 – 2000) and Edward Winter (1908 – 1976).

But back to the Bates enamel that concerns us here. It is a piece that he did inin 1943 and is now in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

It is an image in which the artist has incorporated the most furiously avant-garde forms of painting into the art of enamelling. It is an image that distinguishes the forms typical of Cubism and also of Futurism. And it is also clear that there is a semi-abstract spirit hovering over the entire scene. Some of the most modern forms but at the same time they merge with his homage to one of the world cradles of enamelling,Limoges, to which he pays tribute even in the same title of the part.

A title that otherwise gives us clues about what he is showing. It is really a confrontation between the women who go to the market of the French city. Figures made up of the angles typical of cubist art but with an energy that can be attributed to the futuristic style. With all this, it generates a most tense scene. Even the urban landscape where it is located seems to be the result of that tension.

However, all that tense atmosphere of forms and the hustle and bustle of figures enclosed by architecture, is quite softened thanks to the vivid color of the piece in which almost no primary or secondary color is missing.

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