CHAPTER XVIII

 

 

LA BORNE 1945: THE ARRIVAL OF VASSIL IVANOFF

 

 

   Despite any disappointment which Guillaume might have experienced at the prospects of no longer being in a position to play any active productive role in La Borne, the text of the articles in 'Le Berry Républicain' had clearly shown that, in his perception, the collaboration with Les Lerat had succeeded in realising his main aim for the village, namely, a renewal of artistic life.  Though he may not have been immediately aware of the implications, another aspect of his overall vision for the village was beginning to be enacted just as his own atelier was moving towards its demise.  On their first encounter, Vassil Ivanoff Vassileff may not have appeared to be that kind of 'émule' he had so often sought, but in late l945 the Bulgarian-born artist and photographer arrived in La Borne.  Ivanoff, the name by which he preferred to be known and with which he signed his work, had been born in Tirnovo, the ancient capital of Bulgaria, on l8 February l897.  The elder son of the daughter of an Orthodox priest and a musician in the army, he was living with his family in Varna when, towards the end of World War I, he was mobilized for military duty.  Shortly afterwards, he once more encountered Stoiän Dolmov, a friend from his school days in Tirnovo:

 

                       '... Nous nous retrouvâmes à nouveau en Mai l9l7

                       sur le front de Macédonie en tant qu' aspirants -

                       officiers ayant suivi des cours accélérés, moi

                       à l'Ecole Militaire, lui ˆ l'Ecole des Officiers

                       de réserve.  Les souvenirs communs de notre

                       enfance ˆ Tirnovo nous ont aussitôt rapprochés

                       et marquèrent les débuts de notre amitié ...' (l)

 

   Dolmov has left us an impression of Ivanoff at nineteen with which many who met him in later life were in accord.  With developed interests in art, literature and philosophy, Ivanoff, with his wavy chestnut hair and clear blue eyes, had become 'un superbe jeune homme, grand, élancé, solide, avec un visage beau et net respirant l'énergie, la volonté et l'intelligence'. (2)  In their eighteen months of war service, Dolmov was to observe those characteristics of the individualist that would similarly be observed by others long after Ivanoff had left Bulgaria: in the field, a contempt for danger and an indomitable courage; behind the lines, an unfailing generosity to the local peasantry and captured prisoners; a scorn for war and the military class that would bring him into conflict with his superiors:

 

                       '... Pourquoi diable t'es tu mis en tête de

                       devenir officier? me demandait-il, c'est la

                       dernière couche de la société, figée et ancrée

                       dans une discipline archaïque, offrant un faux

                       vernis d'honneur et de noblesse, infatuée et se

                       pavanant stupidement, qui prépare et conduit le

                       peuple dans des guerres sanglantes et

                       ruineuses ...' (3)

 

    Following demobilization, he resumed his studies before taking a position as a teacher in the village of Varnesko, where his unconventional liberalism led him to be admonished by the authorities for excessive tolerance towards his pupils. (4)  As he later recalled, it was during this period that his passion for the plastic arts began to consume his interests, and in l922, in search of wider horizons, he left his native Bulgaria and settled in Paris. (5)  To earn a living, he was forced to accept various types of employment, firstly in a mine and later, ironically, one with a painting contractor participating in the reconstruction programme in Northern France, following the devastation of the war years. (6)  Later, while working in the south of the country, he met his future wife, Henriette Moser, a student of art in one of the Parisian academies, who was on a sketching holiday in Arles with her mother. (7)  Following their marriage and honeymoon in Corsica, Ivanoff, with the support of his father-in-law, established a business, 'peinture décoration artistique' in the rue de la Tauliere, Marseilles. (8)  After some time, he and his wife returned to Paris where he established himself as an art photographer in rue St. Charles.  In l930, he successfully applied for French citizenship and during the succeeding decade, he was able to resume his artistic education, frequenting the academies, studying painting and theatrical design. (9)  With the advent of World War II, by which time he was living in rue St. Honoré, he was once more mobilized, this time in the French Army, but as a father of a son, Vania, and a daughter, Ania, he was not oblidged to go to the front-line, being detailed to serve in a quarter master's store. (l0)  On 7 March l943, while strolling in the Luxembourg gardens, he encountered a young law student, Denise Roux, twenty-three years his junior, and there commenced a life-long liaison in which his creative and personal lives were inextricably linked.  What would prove to be a turning point for both occurred in l945 when, browsing through the 'bouquinistes' along the banks of the Seine, they casually picked up William Lee's 'L'Art de la Poterie', in which had been painted his indelible picture of Jean Carriès. (ll)  Fascinated by Lee's account, they determined to visit Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye, to see at first hand the setting in which the Carriès story had unfolded.  Ivanoff's experience there only succeeded in fanning an already burning desire to participate in the art which had so consumed the sculptor before the turn of the century, and he resolved to serve a short period of apprenticeship in the pottery centre, eventually managing to do so in the Usine Mallet, (l2) the semi-industrial establishment founded by Aristide Mallet in l937, at La Forge, the site of the old traditional pottery of the Normand family, at the edge of the village on the road to Cosne. (l3)  The reputation of Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye as a pottery centre had remained a vital one since the time of the 'école de Carriès', and among some aspiring artists who had been attracted to it was a recent graduate of the 'arts appliqués' in Paris, Jean Derval. (l4)  While in the region, Derval had encountered Paul Beyer and was aware of the recent developments in La Borne. (l5)  On learning that Ivanoff was considering setting up an atelier of his own, and knowing that any available premises in Saint Amand would be too expensive, he suggested that he should seek to acquire a property in La Borne. (l6)  Denise Roux paid a visit to the village, a few houses were inspected, and on 27 October l945, M. André Baillon, the notaire in Henrichemont, wrote to Ivanoff to inform him that the heirs of a Madame Allyndre had confirmed that they were willing to sell their house and garden. (l7)  On 25 October, Ivanoff forwarded details of his naturalisation to Baillon, and six days later he again wrote to confirm that he would be in Henrichemont on l5 November to meet the vendors and to sign the act of sale. (l8)

 

      Situated on the route de la Thurée in La Borne d'en Bas, this small two-roomed habitation, though adjacent to most of the local potteries, did not resemble any of traditional boutiques.  One room was eventually to serve as living accommodation during those periods when he could afford to be away from Paris, while the other came to house his studio.  Its acquisition was in itself significant, indicating Ivanoff's independence of any attraction to the traditional boutiques of the region.

 

      Whereas Jean and Jacqueline Lerat had been attracted to La Borne by the prospects of engaging in a pioneering enterprise with François Guillaume, it had been the regional crafts administration, under the aegis of the Vichy Government, which had installed the personal atelier of Paul Beyer.  He had pursued a solitary path, though one which had acknowledged the presence of the local tradition.  Lerat and Rozay had been grafted on to that tradition, working with the traditional potters in their 'boutiques', learning many of their practices and using their wheels and kilns.  By contrast, Ivanoff was importing a personal conception of ceramics; his terms of reference, though only being formulated, were different, as were his background and aspirations, and the ancient boutiques and their production, as models, did not figure significantly, if at all, in his plans.  The image of Carriès so vividly described by William Lee had provided the model, and the sculptor's oft-quoted saying, 'I'm only here for the clay, that's all' is one which was consistently reiterated by Ivanoff. (l9)  Like Carriès, that was all he claimed to seek, and without any reference to the existing local tradition, it soon became apparent that he intended to create his own studio 'from the ground up', within the limitations imposed by finance, his obligations to his life in Paris and the restriction of his studio space.  The latter was eventually to house his wheel, kiln and small workbench, all occupying about half of the available space.  Some time before settling in La Borne, Ivanoff had started making provision for his new career.  On l4 August he had taken delivery of a large kick-wheel, commissioned from E. Badel, a 'maître-artisan' of Saint-Amand, (20) but this was soon to be replaced by an electric wheel, also manufactured there by Raymond Bourgeois. (2l)

 

      The reputation of François Guillaume had come to his notice, whether from Lion in Saint-Amand or a Talbot in La Borne is not known, and he soon resolved to visit him in rue des Arènes.  The image of this stranger, 'Slave, dix-huitième, distingué, originale, non-conformiste' was to remain fixed in the memory of Pierre-Charles, Guillaume's eldest son:

 

                       '... Ivanoff est arrivé à Bourges, pour la

                       premiére fois, à bicyclette.  Il venait de

                       St. Amand-en-Puisaye.  Selon la date exacte,

                       je ne me souviens plus.  Je me souviens très

                       bien qu'il avait un pantalon de velour noir,

                       serré à la cheville, comme celui des

                       charpentiers ... Il avait une chemise en grosse

                       laine.  Il avait un foulard qu'il avait peint

                       lui-même ... Il était habillé comme ça quand il

                       est venu voir mon père pour la premiére fois

                       au magasin.  Il était tôt le matin et je l'ai

                       trouvé là et mon pére m'a dit, 'En mene ce

                       monsieur visiter la cathédrale ... J'ai en mené

                       Ivanoff visiter la cathédrale ... Il fallait

                       ma science ... Je m'en souviens très bien

                       qu'il a casser le croûte.  On s'est assis

                       tout en haut de sainte nef.  Il s'est assis, il

                       a mangé une pomme et un morceau de pain et j'ai

                       beaucoup de peine à l'empêcher de fumer une

                       cigarette.  Ensuite, nous avons regardé les

                       vitraux, vous savez que les vitraux sont sertis

                       de plomb, mais certains détails, les yeux par

                       exemple, la bouche ou les doigts sont tracés en

                       noir sur le vitrail ... Je n'ai pas pu

                       l'empêcher d'aller au pied d'un vitrail et de

                       gratter, et là, il a vu ce que j'ignorais, moi,

                       que c'étaient peints sur le verre les détails.

                        .... ça était mon premier contact avec cet

                       homme pour lequel je garde une immense admiration,

                       une très grande affection ... il a eu pour mon

                       père une amitié très, très grande ...' (22)

 

    Though the possibility of 'hiring space' in the kiln of one of the traditional potters always existed, Ivanoff chose to follow a path similar to that of Carriès and to have his own built.  Joseph Massé's renown as a one-time disciple of Carriès had likewise come to his notice, and in early October he wrote to Soye-en-Septaine, introducing himself and seeking the older man's counsel, particularly in relation to the type of kiln he ought to construct.  Massé replied enthusiastically to the news that a new devotee had decided to take up ceramics, 'qui est à mon avis l'art le plus captivant.' (23)  In response to issues raised in Ivanoff's letter, Massé expanded on two:

 

                       '... Je comprends très bien votre désir de

                       cuire vos pièces vous-même et vous avez

                       raison de vouloir faire un petit four ...'

 

                       '... Pour avoir des grès qui sortent de ce

                       que l'on voit dans le commerce et leur donner

                       un cachet personnel, il faut que l'artisan

                       potier travaille seul ...

 

                       ... Je fais tout moi-même car il est

                       impossible de faire comprendre au meilleur

                       ouvrier le forme que l'on désire ...' (24)

 

    At length, Massé discussed the size and type of kiln which he had found to be suitable for his own work, pointing out the difficulties he had earlier experienced with his own reduced La Borne 'four couché. (25)  His recommendation to fire with wood, 'qui est le seul combustible qui donne de beaux résultats', (26) may have stemmed from his knowledge that, in the mid nineteen forties, many of the potters in Saint-Amand, from which Ivanoff had come, had already converted to coal.  He would also have been aware that Auclair had tested Carriès' recipes in kilns fired with both wood and coal, but had cautioned that the use of the latter had entailed the stacking of the ware in saggars. (27)  Realising that it would be preferable for Ivanoff to view the kiln at Soye which he had constructed, he invited him to his home, Le Tremblay, a visit which Ivanoff did make towards the end of the month, accompanied by Denise Roux. (28)  In a letter mailed shortly afterwards to Massé, Ivanoff, speaking of 'la tourmente et la fièvre de la terre et du feu', confirmed his intention to buy the property at La Borne. (29)  That the problem of the kiln had been discussed at length, and a possible solution suggested, is evident in the remainder of Ivanoff's letter:

 

                       '... J'ai vu Monsieur Foucher qui veut bien

                       construire un four comme celui du défunt

                       Monsieur Beyer.

                            Voyez-vous, Monsieur Massé, comme les

                       choses s'arrangent, et n'oubliez pas surtout,

                       que le premier hôte de cette nouvelle chose

                      sera l'artisan potier de Soye-en-Septaine ...' (30)

 

   By 6 November, Massé was once more in contact with Ivanoff, thanking him for gifts of the then scarce cigarettes, film and coffée which the latter had sent to Soye, along with copies of photographs which Ivanoff had taken there, 'elles sont toutes parfaites, mais surtout celles de la cuisine ont un cachet très artistiques.' (3l)  Returning to the question of Ivanoff's kiln, Massé continued:

 

                       '... J'ai beaucoup réfléchi pour votre four,

                       je crois qu'un four genre de celui de Beyer

                       vous conviendrait pour les poteries que vous

                       voulez faire; mais avant de vous décider d'un

                       façon définitive, parlez en à Bedu Armand qui

                       a aidé Beyer à faire ses cuissons.  Bedu

                       Armand est très gentil et est capable de vous

                       dire s'il est préférable pour vous de faire

                       un four comme celui de Beyer ou en plus petit

                       un four rond à 2 alandiers comme celui que

                       Bedu a fait contruire dernièrement.  Vous

                       pouvez vous fier aux conseils qu'il vous

                       donnera, car il est très compétent en la

                       matière ...' (32)

 

    That Ivanoff may have followed Massé's recommendation and compared the two types of kiln is suggested by a loose sheet of mathematical calculations on which he worked out the respective volumes of a round kiln with a chamber diameter of l.3 metres and a similar height, and one of cubic form with dimensions of l.35m x l.35m x l.3m.  At the bottom of this sheet he has noted that Bedu's round kiln had a volume of 3.375 cubic metres. (33)  Ivanoff, however, had already contracted Louis Foucher to build the Beyer model, having written from Paris on 29 October informing him, as he was assured of being able to buy the property in La Borne, that he, Foucher, should commence its construction; 'je voudrais un Four Identique de celui de défunt Monsieur Beyer à La Borne.' (34)  In his answer of 8 November, Foucher related that he had again visited the house in the route de la Thurée and, having noted some problems in building the chimney in this restricted space, indicated that he had decided to site it in such a way as to be able to assure Ivanoff that he need not fear any difficulty in the progression of the firings. (35)  The agreed cost was fifty thousand francs, to be paid in two stages, an initial sum of 20,000 francs to be followed by the balance on the completion of the work, envisaged by Foucher for the end of January, 'si toute fois les gelées ne sont pas trop fortes avant cette date.' (36)  Foucher ultimately acknowledged receipt of 25,000 francs on l2 January l946, followed by two further instalments on 28 January and 23 April, of l5,000 and 5.000 francs respectively. (37)

 

      The short Massé-Ivanoff correspondence clearly shows that an aimiable rapport had immediately been established between the two, and following the invitation to Massé to be the 'premier hôte de cette nouvelle chose', the latter had welcomed the prospects of having Ivanoff as a near neighbour, 'nous pourrions nous voir de temps en temps.' (38)  Despite being able to make some visits to Soye-en-Septaine, (39) Ivanoff was denied the opportunity to establish a long term relationship with Joseph Massé, since the latter died in mid-January l946, following a long and painful illness. (40)

 

      Before his death, Massé had given Ivanoff some of his old record cards on which he had filed Auclair's recipes of the Carriès' glazes.  As well as writing about the facility with which the sculptor had mastered the technical problems of ceramics, it had been this aspect of his work about which William Lee had written so enthusiastically, and Massé's records thus provided a base from which Ivanoff could initiate his own experiments.  These recipes, No. l7, 'Vert de Cuivre', No. l9, 'Vert de Cuivre', No. 20 'Jaune à l'Urane', No. 2l, 'Jaune de Titane', No. 22 'Brun Pourpre' and No. 23, 'Brun Pourpre à Reflets Bleus', the titles given by Auclair, are all from his 'Troisième Série : Les Cires', which up until their publication in l9l0, had been known to him alone:

 

                       '... La série d'émaux qui va suivre donne

                       juste l'aspect de la cire; les pièces émaillées

                       avec ces émaux ont une douceur de toucher trés

                       spéciale, et les émaux, tout en étant mats et

                       gras, ont une diaphanéité et une profondeur de

                       ton agréable à l'oeil ...' (4l)

 

      In accompanying notes, Massé had recorded some of his own trials with the glazes, noting they they should be applied over C.C. No. 4, that is, the fourth of Auclair's 'Première Série : Emaux Blancs, dits Cendres'. (42)  There is no record of this glaze in the record cards given to Ivanoff, but he soon obtained a copy of the issue of 'Art et Decoration', October l9l0, in which Auclair's article had been published.  In addition, he acquired other issues, those in which Eugène Grasset had elaborated on 'Formes et Décoration des Vases', (43) and Taxile Doat of the Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres had written three articles on 'Les Céramiques de Grand Feu : La Porcelaine dure et le Grès-Cérame.' (44)  An additional source for the Carriès glazes was François Guillaume, who also give him the recipes and some small samples he had in his home. (45)

 

      Ivanoff's kiln records and the accompanying notes show that for all his firings up to the eleventh he relied almost exclusively on the Carriès glazes, using them either singly, in conjunction with each other or applied over the Carriès white glaze, C.C. 4. (46)  In his discussion of these glazes Auclair had recommended:

 

                       '... Le mieux, pour obtenir de beaux résultats,

                       est de les superposer au blanc No. 4, soit au

                       mouille, soit à l'insufflateur; avec ce

                       dernier moyen, on obtient des fonds donnant des

                       effets supérieur; c'est comme de beaux-fruits

                       bien propres, à l'épiderme bien poli, avec des

                       tons gras, doux et profonds ...' (47)

 

    In relation to superimposing them, one over the other, he offered the general counsel, 'comme tous ces émaux, il est très beau à employer pur, avec des variantes d'épaisseur qui donneront des variantes de teintes', (48) adding however, in consideration of each individual recipe, its potential when either applied over or mixed with others. (49)

 

      The most comprehensive records for Ivanoff's firing are those for the '4 ème cuisson', which must have taken place towards the end of l946. (50)  Meticulously recorded by Denise Roux, the pieces are numbered, and the glazes, either on the interior or exterior, are noted, as are their kiln positions.  Other than the Carriès glazes, some had been finished with a white glaze obtained from the Etablissement l'Hospied of Golfe-Juan, one of the rare concerns in France to manufacture prepared glazes. (5l)  Accompanying the records are four cross-sections of the kiln, each sub-divided into a grid in which is indicated the precise kiln-placement of each piece.  Some of the wares are recorded as 'brut', that is unglazed, the others, glazed, comprise the full gamut of colours attainable at high temperature from the Auclair recipes.  There is no further evidence to show whether this procedure was used for all firings, but in this instance at least, it is evident that Ivanoff was employing a rigorous system of notation similar to that earlier practised by Massé.

 

      The descriptive notes for the '6 ème cuisson' are less clear but they do show that Ivanoff was still largely depending on the Carriès glazes though he had added some more L'Hospied prepared ones, 'bleu turquoise, vert, bleu, rouge and brun.' (52)  By this time, his notation was becoming more personal, making hurried references to Auclair's recipes by their given title followed by either C.C. and the relevant number or Massé's name.  Records for the eight firing are more rudimentary still, being reduced to numbers only.  For subsequent firings this manner of record-keeping, while it was obviously appropriate for the artist himself, makes interpretation somewhat hazardous, until such times as identifiably new sources for glaze recipes appear, and this is so from the twelfth firing onwards.

 

      In considering all of Ivanoff's work, one is confronted with three problems.  Firstly, on his death in l973, a legal division of his pieces awarded only twenty per cent to Denise Roux, the remainder to his legal inheritors. (53)  These latter works have not been available to either the public or interested parties since that date.  Secondly, except for a small number, his total production for the first few years was brought to his home in Paris.  Thirdly, with the exception of an occasional dedicated pot, he never dated any of his work, and although Denise Roux has attempted a chronological ordering, this suffers from the obvious imprecision of an exercise for which the main criterion was human memory.  The most concrete evidence for this initial period are black and white photographs of some pieces which were taken by Ivanoff himself.  One feels justified in assuming that the works so high-lighted were chosen by the artist as representing technical and aesthetic achievement.  All these have been made on the potter's wheel, and though lacking colour, the photographs display matured glaze surfaces enlivened with flows and richly mottled textures. (Fig. 223)  On account of the above-noted constraints, it is impossible to attribute a precise date to any one piece, but it is clear that his perception of ceramics was one which not only involved making 'pots' on which he could test his glazes, but was also one in which thrown forms were transformed, either through addition or deformation, according to a sculptural intent.

 

      Some pieces from this early period, mostly pots, do remain in his studio in La Borne.  Identifiable by their small scale, the characteristics which betray the initial efforts of the autodidact, and surfaces which recall both Massé and Carriès, they reveal both the successes and failures of his early glaze tests.  Some, though matt, display rich coloration and variegated surfaces.  Others bear the types of blemishes described by Taxile Doat 'des tressaillures, des retirements, des vagues et des bouillons.' (54) (Fig. 224)  There is every likelihood that some had been subjected to 'La repasse', the re-firing of unsuccessful pieces, something which Doat and others resorted to before achieving desired results. (55)

 

      Between 29 October l947 and l2 August l949 the kiln was used only three times, for firings ll, l2 and l3, and all the evidence suggests that during this period Ivanoff engaged in a reappraisal of his work, before gravitating towards other authorities for new glaze compositions, and simultaneously, deciding to demolish and rebuild his kiln. (56)  Still relying on the Carriès glazes, presumably those combinations he had found easier to control, a new composition, which he has designated as Resip l9 'Celadone', appears.  His recorded recipe shows it to be 'Kawai's Celadon' from Bernard Leach's 'The Potter's Book.'  Though it would be some years before a French language edition would appear, Ivanoff acquired the English language January l948 edition, the succeeding reprint appearing in September of the same year.  A translation of specific parts of the text was undertaken, recording, as 'Notes Diverses', Leach's comments on specific pottery faults, problems and practices, with in addition major sections of Chapter Vl: Pigments and Glazes, and Chapter Vll: Kilns and Kiln Construction. (57)  From chapter Vl, Ivanoff was to make increasing use of the following glazes from Leach's Tables in his subsequent firings:

 

 

 

                                                                      TABLE

 

                                   Celadons                                                                 pp l66/7

 

                                   Kawai's Celadon

                                   Kawai's Lung Ch'uan Celadon

 

                                   Iron Glazes                                                              pp l70/l7l

 

                                   Tea-Dust

                                   Hamada Tenmoku

 

                                   Pale or Colourless Glazes                       pp l72/3

 

                                   Ordinary Stoneware

                                   Chün or Yüan

 

                                   Coloured Glazes                                              pp l74/5

 

                                   Copper Red Glaze

 

      It is the final reference to the copper red glaze that further explains the reason for the uncharacteristic small number of firings during this period of almost two years.  When William Lee had written 'Et qui sait si ce volume n'aidera pas un jour à l'apparition de quelque bel artiste' (58), it is unlikely that he would have envisaged the appearance of someone who, like Carriès, would be equipped with the determination and energy to have achieved all that Ivanoff had done so far.  Irrespective of quality, the amount of time and expense to have prepared a sufficient number of pieces to fill the kiln ten times in the short space of eighteen months is alone indicative that he had become obsessed with his research.  The romantic image of Bernard Palissy, so committed that he had been willing to sacrifice his health, family and even his house is, for Brunhammer, a premonition of those who, since the middle of the nineteenth century, had chosen the solitary destiny of the potter:

 

                       '... La fascination pour l'émail, ses

                       vibrations et ses profondeurs, est l'une

                       des tendances les plus vivantes en France ...' (59)

 

      Having so far relied almost exclusively on the Carriès' glazes, it is from this time onwards that he progressively gravitates his research towards the pursuit of that glaze which is described as 'one of the most elusive to achieve and difficult to repeat with consistency' (60), the  red, the Rouge de Cuivre obtained by using an oxide of copper as an ingredient in the glaze mix.  That he had already started to explore it is shown in his notes for the sixth firing where item No. 9 is recorded as 'Rouge de Cuivre Massé', below which he indicated the 'rouge' or 'vert' attained in either a reducing atmosphere or an oxidising one. (6l)  Except for a brief comment in relation to the Deuxième Série of the Carriès glazes, 'les effets de couleurs varient avec la température et la nature de l'atmosphère du four' (62), Auclair had not elaborated on the use of either 'oxidation' or 'reduction' during the firing cycle.  The eleventh firing, when the Leach recipes first become evident in his glaze repertoire, is then important since both the Rouges de Cuivre and Celadons are only attainable in a carefully controlled reducing atmosphere, a fact which he most certainly would have read in Taxile Doat's article in Art et Décoration of February, l907:

 

                       '... Le fer et le cuivre qui sous l'oxydation

                       se développent en brun et vert turquoise,

                       donnent en réducteur, l'un, les celadons de fer

                       des poteries coréennes et l'autre, les rouges

                       sanglantes des flammés chinois.

                                   Ces deux combinaisons du fer et du

                       cuivre avec la couverte ont été dénommées

                       flammés ou flambés parce que ces deux métaux

                       ne se développent en rouge et en celadon que

                       sous l'incessante influence des flammes

                       tourbillonnant autour des pièces, pendant la

                       cuisson.

                                   Ces influences, qui occasionnent d'une

                       façon continue des combinaisons pyro-

                       chimiques, étant sans limites, donnent

                       naissance à la superbe variété des flammés.

                       Le qualificatif de flammé, qui dans le sens

                       propre du mot signifie: cuit dans la flamme,

                       ne s'applique qu'aux deux couvertes fer et

                       surtout cuprique.  Les flammés de cuivre ne

                       peuvent se produire que sur deux matières, le

                       grès et la porcelaine dure ...' (63)

 

      The earliest recorded copper red wares can be traced back to Emperor Hsüan- in the Ming Dynasty.  Ranging in colour from 'a dark blood red to the lightest suffusions of pink.  The former are often called oxblood, sang de boeuf or lang-yao; the latter are usually referred to as "peach bloom".  In some cases, the red may be purplish; in others, it may be touched with hints or streaks of milky blue, the resulting alternations of red and blue making up what is known as flambé.' (64)  In the opinion  of d'Albis, the true 'sang-de-boeuf' on pieces of exceptional quality, is a cherry red glaze with a thin white line either at the summit or the base, or both. (65)  The mystique surrounding its production was such that legends developed, some even claiming that the colour was derived from the addition of pulverised rubies. (66)  That its elusiveness had fired the imagination of many outside the laboratories of Sèvres is evident from Gustave Flaubert who, obviously recounting the difficulties encountered by Salvetat, the chemist of the Manufacture Nationale, described the plight of Monsieur Arnoux of Montereau who 'was searching for the copper red of the Chinese, but all his colours volatilised in the firing.' (67)  Before Ernest Chaplet's scientist, Lebrun de Robert, could record, 'La fournée de Monsieur Chaplet est fort belle et surtout fort concluante.  Il n'y a pas trace de vert', (68) the artist himself had difficulty gaining absolute control over his firing procedure, 'La fournée n'est pas très belle, j'ai quelques belles bouteilles mais beaucoup de pièces ont du vert mélangé au rouge.' (69)  Like others after him, Chaplet never revealed his formulae, and before committing suicide in a state of depression engendered by advancing years and increasing blindness, he destroyed all his records in his kiln, in that 'fire' with which he had collaborated. (70)

 

      With Massé no longer available to offer him advice, and the experience of the region being restricted to the glazes and firing techniques traditionally used, Ivanoff was alone, forced to rely on his instinct and determination.

 

      In l948, when this passion for the rouge de cuivre was first at its height, he was fortunate to have encountered a young Danish potter, Gütte Eriksen, who had just completed a short period of study with Bernard Leach in St. Ives. (7l)  Born in l9l8, she set up her own studio in Kastrup after finishing her studies in the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen.  Equipped with a travel bursary from the Danish government, (72) she had arrived in France seeking further experience after leaving England.  It was in Paris that she met two young women, Christiane Lamoyé and Jeannette Pierlot, both of whom sold ceramics.  Being familiar with the Berry region, Jeannette was a friend of Pierre Lion of St. Amand and Christiane knew Ivanoff, (73) they enthused about its ceramic history.  Christiane introduced her to Ivanoff, and it was with he, 'que le rouge Sang de Boeuf rendait fou' (74), that she decided to work, arriving in La Borne in September and remaining several weeks, unwittingly establishing a practice that was to be perpetuated by Ivanoff, and others, in the succeeding years, that of the 'Stagiaire.' (75)

 

      From the beginning of her studies she had been influenced by the simple lines of pottery found in archeological sites, and such forms had been the point of departure of her own work, restrained and unglazed, finely textured pots (Fig. 225) that, in l948, were rare.  From Leach, she had assimilated that sense of appreciation of the work of the traditional craftsman, and in the home of François Guillaume in Bourges 'elle a été étonnée des céramiques anciennes de La Borne,' (76) just as in the village 'elle s'emerveille devant la force des pots de Vendier, ce potier qui ne savait pas qu'il faisait des pièces magnifiques.' (77)

 

      It is not known whether Ivanoff obtained the copy of 'The Potter's Book' from Gütte Eriksen, though it is probable, but one can be certain that, given his thirst for information, Ivanoff could only have welcomed the knowledge and stimulation communicated by one who, fresh from St. Ives, shared his passion.

 

      By l8 February l949, the Carriès and Leach glazes were being augmented by a number taken from recipes given by Taxile Doat in his article in 'Art et Décoration.' (78)  It would appear that it was at this time that his kiln was being reconstructed since the thirty-one glazes tested on this date are recorded as 'Les essais chez Bernon' (79), leading one to assume that Ivanoff had hired kiln-space in the 'grand four' of the local potter, Marius Bernon.  Included were a number of the Carriès glazes, Leach's recipes for Kawai's Celadon, Kawai's Lung Ch'uan Celadon, the Tea-Dust iron glaze, and the Copper Red which he had described as 'an under-glaze to be covered by the ordinary stoneware glaze.' (80)  For the latter, Ivanoff had used the composition given in the table of 'Pale or Colourless Glazes' in 'The Potter's Book' (8l), but substituting vine ash for the medium ash indicated in the recipe. (82)

 

      The remainder had all been taken from Doat's article, in which he had described the colours obtainable at high temperatures:

 

                       '... Me voici arrivé à l'intéressante partie

                       de l'art du potier: les couleurs.  Que le

                       céramiste soit peintre ou sculpteur, architecte

                       ou simplement technicien, il faut, pour obtenir

                       un resultat estimable, qu'il soit doublé d'un

                       chimiste ...' (83)

 

      Discussed at length are the effects obtained when those metal oxides capable of withstanding high temperatures are incorporated either with clay bodies or in glaze recipes, to give 'les pâtes colorées et les couvertes colorées.' (84)  It is two of the former, 'Pâte. bleu persan' and 'Pâte noire', which Ivanoff included on this occasion.  For his twelfth firing Ivanoff had already been experimenting with qualities of a similar nature, but at the time his source had been a different one.  Like Carriès, who had settled in Saint-Amand with 'un volume Roret, le livre de Monsieur Lauth', (85) he had bought the l934 edition of the popular Encyclopédie Roret 'Traité de Céramique' by E. Greber, and passages he had marked in coloured pencil are, in the context of some recipes he had included in his notes, adequate evidence of the direction his interests in glazes was leading him.  In his chapter on Grès, Greber, discussing some regional practices, had continued:

 

                       '... Pour compléter cette descritpion il me

                       reste à signaler les grés dits flammés dont

                       la décoration est obtenues au moyen de

                       couvertes mates ou semi-mates, dévitrifiées

                       au rutile ...' (86)

 

      Though recommending that they should be fired at l300ºC in an oxydizing atmosphere, and in saggars, which Ivanoff did not use, a succeeding comment was sufficient to let him see that they still had potential for experimentation at La Borne:

 

                       '... Cuits en plein feu et salés, il donnent

                       des effets différents et parfois trés curieux.

                       C'est ainsi que sont obtenus les grès dits de

                       Beauvais, dont la technique, peu connue,

                       pourrait réserver des trouvailles intéressantes

                       aux chercheurs qui voudraient les étudier ...' (87)

 

      Doat's suggestion that the potter 'soit doublé d'un chimiste' posed a new technical practice for Ivanoff, since many of the ingredients had to be introduced into the glaze composition in the form of frits.  The procedure was required to obtain the 'Oxyde de bleu Persan', an ingredient of the 'Pâte, Bleu Persan', and Ivanoff's notes show that he was studiously following the recommended procedures. (88)  For the 'essais chez Bernon', he also included two tests for a copper red which, in his notes, he has called 'Rouge de Cuivre, fondu Sèvres.' (89)  The information in his notes is sufficient to show that, in this instance, he was relying on the rouge de cuivre given by Doat, test No.5 being that of the recipe, with No.l4 being a mixture of fifty per cent of the required primary materials, the remainder being added in the form of a frit. (90)  Though there is evidence elsewhere in his records that he had copied out the recipe recommended by Greber for the rouge de cuivre, there is nothing else to suggest that he relied on it in his subsequent efforts to attain mastery over the conditions prerequisite to obtaining 'Le charme irréstible qui se dégage de la rutilance, de la profondeur et de la transparence des flammés. (9l)  He was to continue using other glazes for some time but the Leach 'copper red' disappears from his records and notes, to give way to the 'fondu Sèvres', the Doat recipe for the rouge de cuivre which, almost talismanically, is recorded time after time, as, making up new quantities of the glaze batch, he elected to use it as a constant in this complex equation. (Fig. 226)

 

      It is questionable whether Ivanoff could have achieved any of the anticipated effects in February l949 since the control of the atmosphere in the 'grands fours' of La Borne could not be imposed with the rigour described by all the authorities at his disposal.  Of these, Taxile Doat had been specific, without proposing means whereby it could be attained, an impossible task, anyway, since each kiln has its own characteristics:

 

                       '... L'art des flammés est tout entier dans la

                       conduite du feu qui doit être rigoureusement

                       réductrice jusqu'à la fusion de la couverte, et

                       complètement oxydante àpartir de ce point de

                       fusion.  Trop de réduction, les rouges deviennent

                       noirs ou sans éclat, trop d'oxydation, ils

                       tournent au vert ...' (92)

 

      That the question of the intensity of reduction and its location within the firing cycle are still unresolved is evident from contrasting views proposed in today's literature on the subject. (93)  To master the rouge de cuivre, 'one of the most elusive to achieve and difficult to repeat with consistency', (94) the potter must first get to know his kiln, and then to work with it in an intimate relationship, a problem that is compounded for the creative artist, the scale of whose forms and kiln placement must inevitably vary with each successive firing.  The ' vert mélangé au rouge' noted by Chaplet had been created by the effect of aeriel oxygen coming into contact with concentrated particles of copper oxide, leaving them fully oxidised.  The firing of pure reds then becomes so marginal that the entry of the slightest sliver of air into the kiln chamber is sufficient to provoke either traces or extensive areas of unreduced green.

 

      To be in a position to exercise the necessary control Ivanoff would have to await the reconstruction of his own kiln.  This had been completed by l2 August l949, the 'Cuisson XIV' (95), when his records show that he fired some celadons and 'rouge de cuivre' along with a range of Leach and Carriès glazes which he appears to have come to rely on, the ringed numbers in the records indicating his personal notation and brief titles for each that he used. Success was to be achieved in the fifteenth firing (Fig. 227) carried out that same year.  Writing about it later to Denise Roux, when he was having difficulties in repeating the operation, he related in his  inimitable style:

 

                       '... Je rentre dans le four, je ressort, j'y

                       vais cherché mes encienes comptes de cuisson

                       dans le livre que tu conais.  C'est La XV

                       cuisson - l0 Octobre l949.  Peti feu très

                       court, duré de la cuisson l5 heures -

                       reductrice partout et le rouge d'un bout ˆ

                       l'autre ...' (96)

 

      Veiled by the individuality of his written French, - he often used the Cyryllic alphabet and resorted to puns in his letters! - the jocose intimacy of the remainder of this personal letter masks the concern, agony even, and challenge which he had experienced, but his growing expertise in kiln control was to be demonstrated in l95l, and to be recalled as an event, when he successfully fired Armand Bedu's small kiln.

 

                       '... Je me suis fais une magnifique cuisson

                       dans le four de Bedu ( Le four qui attender

                       depuis dix ans pour être allumé ) ... Et ma

                       grande, je le fais marcher ce four et je le

                       fais tomber les montres, Ah, Si tu avais vu

                       çaa?!? ...' (97)

 

      François Guillaume's observations on the work of his new friend were less subjective.  A small number are soberly recorded in his 'Notes':

 

                       '... Fait en l949 des pièces accomplies au

                       point de vue céramique.

 

                       Vu le 6 Sept l95l une belle collection de

                       pièces chamottées rouge sang de boeuf,

                       quelques pièces au sel et d'autres ...

                       vertes, bleues et crème.  Il y environ

                       l00 ...' (98)

 

      Simultaneously, Guillaume had added an enlightening comment on the forms, 'très audacieuses', (99) which Ivanoff was also producing by that date, 'Les pièces sculptées s'humanisent.' (l00)  It is understandable that the production of thrown ware would have been an imperative for Ivanoff if only to progressively refine his skill and provide vehicles for his glaze experiments.  Such 'pottery' was to remain a constant throughout his creative life, but so also was the equally important impulse to create pieces of a sculptural nature, and it is in the late forties that one can perceive the genesis of both these tendencies.  Given that the pieces made during the period are no longer accessible for scrutiny, other evidence, though not totally conclusive, bears sufficient authority to depict an individual whose creativity was, from the beginning, determined by these two broad sub-divisions, that is, (i) the pottery, thrown forms, either embellished with a surface, richly glazed, and progressively displaying a reliance on the 'rouge de cuivre', or, by contrast, a rigorously executed decorative treatment, and (ii), ceramic sculpture which, except in certain instances later in his career, derived exclusively form the potter's wheel, Ivanoff, like many others, having been totally captivated by the almost primeval sense of creation experienced in throwing. (l0l)

 

      The sub-division of his work in such a fashion is inevitably simplistic, overlapping and cross-fertilisation always being inherent in the total oeuvre of any creative individual, but it does assist in identifying the origins of trends or themes that are important in furthering our comprehension, particularly if, as is the case with Ivanoff, it helps to identify predispositions and interests that were to remain an integral part of his artistic motivation.

 

(i) The Pottery

 

      In the article 'Formes et Décoration des Vases', Eugène Grasset, in the context of a brief historical analysis of pottery, had attempted 'une classification des principales formes de vases qui sont destinés à être décorés', reducing the wide variety of forms to basic types in a manner reminiscent of Cezanne's reduction of objects to their fundamental geometric forms. (l02)  Some such geometrically conceived ideas for vases and bowls are sketched in a few pages adjoining Ivanoff's early kiln records, a suggestion that he may have been motivated at this early stage by Grasset's theories.  However, as his own familiarity with pottery increased, and , after all, Grasset's own analysis had been developed from such an understanding, it is likely that Ivanoff's pots were developed more from a sense of form determined by direct and intimate manipulation of the growing volume of the clay as it rotated on the wheel.

      Though Grasset had not extended his article to include either decorative techniques or formats, it is improbable that Ivanoff, given his independence of thought, would have been influenced by anything of that nature, had it existed.  Relying on his own instincts, his drawing and painting had shown that he worked in an more expressive vein, and his decoration of the period reveals a similar response, his innate graphic vigour exploiting the potential of the new materials he was then using. (Figs. 228, 229)

 

(ii)  Ceramic Sculpture

 

      The term as used here is intended to embrace that continuum of forms which, at one extremity, retain a sense of the functional and, at the other, possess the unmistakable qualities of sculptural conceptions.  A clue to those sources which appear have been points of departure for his work in this field, or more properly, provide evidence as to the types of historic precedents which best reflected his own creative instincts, is also contained in his early sketch and record books.  Rapid, vigorous drawings show that he was attracted towards the artefacts of prehistoric and primitive societies, African sculpture and Pre-Columbian pottery, particularly the Zoomorphic and anthropomorphic funerary pots of South America. (l03) (Fig. 230)  Closer to home are renderings of English medieval pottery and the salt-glazed German Bellarmines - the unique 'greybeards'.

 

      A relationship can be detected between the latter and Ivanoff's range of full-bodied bottles in which the pouring spout becomes an element in small sculptural compositions - a piece included in the fourth firing was entitled 'l'homme qui verse.' (l04)  One of his photographs shows a simple interpretation of the idea (Fig. 23l), but most others reveal a progressive extension of the sculptural additions to a scale where they dominate the supporting form. (Fig. 232)  With these, it would be easy to speculate that they also had a kinship with the dragon and lizard motifs, themselves influenced by Oriental ceramics, which had been popular with artists such as Lachenal at the turn of the century. (l05)  Relying less on the supple linearity of the figure, Ivanoff, by contrast, emphasizes a sense of the menacing and the grotesque. (Fig. 233)

 

      These beg the question as to how he reacted to influences from his immediate environment in La Borne.  It is improbable that anyone, even an independent personality like Ivanoff, could have failed to have been drawn to, and to a degree influenced by, the decorative wares of the Talbots, and some pieces he photographed do suggest a tentative link with such products as the tobacco jars of Jean Talbot, albeit overlaid with a strongly personal style. (Fig. 234)  Others, functional pieces with applied handles and knobs, are at sufficient remove from the conventional, to permit one to interpret their conception as deriving from a sculptural, rather than utilitarian, impulse.  There is no doubt, however, that this predilection made itself manifest at the very beginning of his ceramic career, pieces included in the fourth cuisson bearing sufficiently descriptive titles, 'bouteilles aux oiseaux, vase matelot, vase bucherons (l06), to suggest, if not a sculptural treatment, at least a decorative one.  Others offer more convincing evidence, 'la femme au balcon, la petite bergère, les petites jumelles' (l07) and, possibly an interpretation depicted in a photograph, 'le petit théâtre.' (l08) (Fig. 235)  It is apparent that none of these relied for content or form on influences assimilated from the bornois tradition.  In the context of a more recent one, that imported by Paul Beyer, the description of one piece, 'Vase haut-deux femmes' (l09) suggests that he may have already been exploring the potential of deforming a thrown shape, to impose or imply a figurative dimension.  This was a technique of Beyer's which he did use to explore some of his sculptural ideas, an influence that was later to elicit the observation of Michel Faré: 'Ivanoff a médité à La Borne la leçon de Beyer.  Mais il a su dégager du sillage exemplaire du maître potier. (ll0)

 

      As for his other themes, there is no evidence that he worked directly from any preconceived, and precisely rendered, visual image.  Rather, from his sketches one is left with the impression that he initiated his sculptural essays by firstly generating 'ends in view', prior to externalising a form in direct dialogue with his material.  One piece included in the fourth firing, 'pot à l'oiseau - imaginaire', (lll) while not confirming the strategy, at least proclaims this resort to the imagination, and both appear to be substantiated by a letter he wrote to Denise Roux in l948.  Its humourous acceptance is indicative of a divergent element in his creative psychology:

 

                       '... La petite poterie continue de se peupler

                       ...  Voilà, j'ai fait un oiseau qui ressemble

                       à un poisson, mais cela fait rien.  C'est

                       quand même un oiseau ...' (ll2)

 

      Of such forms, there is only the photographic evidence of a piece (Fig. 236), which might have been that he described, again in a letter to Denise Roux, in l949:

 

                       '... Aujourd'hui je me suis tourné un

                       magnifique coq. (Demain je vais faire

                       d'autres animaux et de bonnes femmes) ...' (ll3)

 

      The 'bonnes femmes' had already been adverted to in l948, 'après je me suis fabriqué une bonne femme couché', (ll4) and later in l950 when, with a small sketch showing a bottle-like seated figure, he would write of 'les dessins des personnages avec cordes j'ai arrangé la bonne femme.  Je lui a mis des bras en corde.  C'est comme si je lui avais soufflé âme.' (ll5)  As Jean Favière has shown, the traditional 'bouteilles de marriage' in the Berry region had been translated by Marie Talbot into her 'bonnes femmes.' (ll6)  Like the fountains, they were thrown on the wheel where   ` l'usage de la forme tournée à des fins plastiques donnent une rigeur sévère en même temps qu'une noblesse raffinée.' (ll7)  Jean and Jacqueline Lerat had derived the inspiration for their virgins from such precedents but, whether in jest, or indeed, impelled by a sense of Dada, Ivanoff exploited the technique "montées comme des pots", (ll8) but ignored the forms of his predecessors.

 

      Visual notations for pieces included in the fourth firing show what appear to be small figures composed of joined thrown elements, but similar records for that of November l950 offer more convincing proof as to the direction his sculpture had taken, a diminution of the earlier realism having been supplanted, in both his sculpture and many of his pots, by a conception of form which derived from a juxtaposition of rigorously thrown shapes. (Fig. 237) No.6 in the list is an example of sculptures which, as Guillaume had noted, were showing more pronounced human characteristics, and it is once more in his sketches (Fig. 238) that one finds the theme being explored, a theme which would remain a characteristic of his work as, exploiting the potential of mass, void, density of texture and quality of surface, he strove to extend his artistic horizon. (Figs. 239)

 

      Pottery also included in the November l950 firing displays a similar concern for the abandonment of conventional conceptions.  Once more it is his sketchbooks which provide evidence of both his sources, notably the Pre Columbian 'stirrup pots', and, never a copyist, the generation of his own ideas, evolving towards a re-interpretation of the meaning and function of such elements as foot, body, shoulder, neck and rim, to create structures in which they have been conceived and used wholly for their formal values. (Fig. 240)

      The same year also witnessed a consolidation of another continuing facet of Ivanoff's work, the decorated 'plaques'. (ll9)  Using flat slabs of heavily grogged - chamotté - clay, overlaid with washes of slip, oxide or superimposed glazes, he used a sgrafitto technique to give play, in line, colour and tone, those graphic and painterly qualities earlier revealed in his paintings.

 

      Guillaume's l95l observation came just at the time when Ivanoff was preparing to embark on the first of those voyages that would lead him to visit, and work with, peasant potters in other parts of Europe.  He spent the winter of that year in Greece and Crete and, on his journey home, had a short sojourn in Grottaglia and Santa Margherita in southern Italy.  Guillaume recorded both the event and the quality of influence (Fig. 24l) on his return:

 

 

                       '... Vu à son retour.  Il a vecu avec les

                       potiers grecs et des îles de Grece.  Rapporte

                       des façons de faire et des terres ...

                       8 Juin l952.  Une pièce cuite à l300 chez

                       Foucher laisse espérer des grès reprenant les

                       éléments décoratifs des anciennes poteries

                       grecques ...' (l20)

 

     Ivanoff had first exhibited in Paris in l948, and successive shows were to bring him increasingly to the attention of the connoisseurs, eliciting favourable comment from the critics, best exemplified by that made by Michel Faré, Conservateur au Musée des Arts Décoratifs:

 

                       '... Ses grès au sel mordorés ou ses grès

                       porcelainés allient les recherches concertées

                       aux jeux de la cuisson : les trainés blanches,

                       vert pâle évoquent la subtilité des anciens

                       céladons.  Ivanoff diversifie ses techiques:

                       tantôt les flancs sont lisses, tantôt les

                       gravures sous-jacentes font valoir les

                       richesses de la matière.  Une force primitive

                       préside à la naissance de ses pots, qui n'exclut

                       ni l'esprit ni l'humour.  Une tradition paysanne,

                       faite de santé et de goût pour le grotesque, se

                       manifeste dans ses créations : cuisses ou seins

                       ajoutés aux structures insistent sur la parenté

                       des vases céramiques avec le corps humain.

                       Certains éléments sont empruntés à la faune.

                       Ils s'intègrent alors à des formes tournées

                       selon un rythme naturel et cosmique dont Ivanoff

                       ne cesse de nous révéler les puissances ...' (l2l)