Decorative tiles as historic artifacts

We have a nod to a new book by Ken Forster in the Chic Choices feature of WAG’s April edition.

In fitting with our issue’s theme – “The Animal Kingdom” – we spotlighted a decorative tile from his new book, one that features an intricate fish-themed design.

Subjects for decorative tiles, though, certainly extend far beyond animal themes.

That is one fact made abundantly clear in “Tiles & Styles ­– Jugendstil & Secession: Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts Design in German and Central European Decorative Tiles, 1895-1935” (Schiffer Publishing, $59.99).

This book, which has a clear appeal for those interested in the history of decorative objects, is also a delight for the most casual collector or home-décor enthusiast.

Forster – an antiquarian, design historian, collector and lecturer – has spent more than 40 years specializing in the applied arts and styles of decoration of the late-19th and early- 20th century in both Europe and the United States.

In his 272-page volume, which comes artfully alive thanks to more than 600 color images, Forster takes the reader through art and decorative histories alike.

The ceramic tiles, used primarily on walls, floors and stoves (but also incorporated into furniture design) were originally affordable decorative elements that brought art into many homes. Today, these pieces are more often found in an antiques shop or show booth, at the ready for a creative reimagining of purpose.

It would be easy to spend an entire afternoon with this book, admiring the wealth of images from intricate florals to bold geometrics to beautiful maidens, charming landscapes and yes, a handful of playful animal-themed scenes.

For more, visit schifferbooks.com. – Mary Shustack

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