Born of FireCeramics from the MFA Collection

October 30, 2021 through March 20, 2022

Kimiyo Mishima, Japanese, b. 1932, Bâbekyûyô-mokutan, 2005, Glazed stoneware with screenprint, Gift of Hazel and William R. Hough

Ceramics—a term deriving from the ancient Greek word for potter’s clay (keramikos )—encompass a diverse range of materials and products. These include heavy earthenwares made of base clay, as well as delicate and translucent porcelains. Born of Fire celebrates the Museum of Fine Arts’ wide-ranging holdings of masterful ceramics, all objects made of humble elements but transformed through the touch of human hands, and by the heat and fire of the kiln.

Born of Fire features a number of rarely seen but important works. Among the most compelling of these is a spectacular French decorative platter covered with snakes, lizards, shells, and frogs. Made in the Renaissance Revival style of the mid-1800s, it served no purpose other than to astonish the viewer with its remarkably life-like images of slithery aquatic creatures. In contrast, the Museum’s Royal Vienna monteith—a scallop-rimmed vessel designed to cool wine glasses—is a study in the Neoclassical elegance and restraint that typifies the European obsession with ancient Greece and Rome during the late 1700s. No less compelling is asculpture of a cardboard box filled with crumpled newspaper by Kimiyo Mishima. This work is remarkable for its realism, and is a witty commentary on the contemporary obsession with consumption.

Through a variety of techniques and materials, from screen-printing to gilding, from hand-coiling to molding, these works explore the incredible breadth of ceramic artistry. Born of Fire celebrates the virtuosity and creativity of ceramic artists from around the globe.