Jean-Joseph Carriès – Artist Profile

Jean-Joseph Carriès was an influential French sculptor and ceramicist who thrived in the 1880s and early 1890s. In his relatively short life he created a collection of expressive stoneware sculpture and functional “Japonisme-inspired” pieces, work that was inspirational to subsequent Art Nouveau ceramicists. He is credited by some for lifting public perception of ceramics from craft to a modern art form.

Flask With Face, ca 1890, glazed stoneware; Metropolitan Museum of Art (Accession Number: 2013.489)

There are some contradictory accounts of Carriès’ background, but here’s what I’ve been able to piece together. Born in 1855 and raised in an orphanage in Lyon, France, after the death of his parents to tuberculosis, Carriès was apprenticed to Lyon sculptor Pierre Vermare at an early age. After a 2-year apprenticeship, Carriès moved to Paris in 1874 and enrolled in the sculpture program at the École des Beaux-Arts as a probationary pupil of Augustin-Alexandre Dumont. Failing tests for full admission, Carriès set up his own studio and made his début at the Salon of 1875. While working in Paris as a sculptor, Carriès created portrait busts, mythological subjects, and grimacing masks (reflecting his strong interest in facial expression). One of his best known works is Head of a Faun, ca. 1885, sculpted in plaster (later replicated in stoneware via molds – see example below).

Head of a Faun, ca. 1885, plaster; Getty Museum (https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/person/103KWV)

Carriès was deeply impressed with the Oriental exhibitions during the 1879 Exposition Universelle in Paris. (Carriès was amongst numerous artists working in France in this period, notably Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Edgar Degas, who were exposed to and inspired by the art of Japan shown in these large exhibitions, ultimately giving rise to an artistic movement in Europe referred to as Japonisme.) Carriès was particularly struck with displays of Japanese ceramics and began studying ceramic techniques, devoting more and more time to this new medium.

In 1888, Carriès left Paris for the small town of Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye in the Loire Valley, which was home to several stoneware factories producing glazed and unglazed utilitarian pottery. A year later, in 1889, Carriès exhibited his first stoneware pieces. Particularly noteworthy were organic forms and the dripping glazes that Carriès employed, influential as examples of emerging Art Nouveau ceramics.

Glazed Stoneware Vase, ca. 1891-1894; Jason Jacques Gallery
Glazed Stoneware Vase
Glazed Stoneware Pitcher in Form of a Melon

Carriès constructed a kiln on his property in 1891, sculpting a large number of forms that he would then mold and produce as stoneware pieces in the 1892 Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.

Head of a Faun, Glazed Stoneware

Carriès sold multiple pieces from this Salon show to the French Ministry of Culture (some of these items are now in the Musée du Luxembourg and the Musée de Sèvres).

Bust of Loyse Labé, 1893, Glazed Stoneware; Jason Jacques Gallery

Two years after the successful 1892 Salon, Carriès died in 1894 at age 39. Carriès’ work was influential as inspiration for a number of Art Nouveau ceramic artists later known as the Ecole de Carriès, including George Hoentschel, Paul Jeanneney, Émile Grittel, Henri de Vallombreuse, and Jean Pointu.

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