The Bi­tossi Craze

Atomic Ranch - - Contents - By Tori Young­bauer Photos pro­vided by Max Mcdon­ald

Learn more about these brightly col­ored, uniquely tex­tured Ital­ian ceram­ics.

Iconic art­work of the Mid­cen­tury Mod­ern era.

Ital­ian-made ceram­ics have a rich and no­table back­ground, and— as any mid­cen­tury en­thu­si­ast or col­lec­tor may know—some of the most no­table work is that of the com­pany Bi­tossi Ceramiche. Distin­guished by brightly col­ored glazes and im­pec­ca­ble tex­tures, these pieces are truly works of art sought out by col­lec­tors all around the world. One such col­lec­tor, Max Mcdon­ald of Lub­bock, Texas, shares his pas­sion for Mid­cen­tury Mod­ern pieces and for Bi­tossi ceram­ics.

The stylis­tic charm of these pieces con­tin­u­ously draws in new col­lec­tors and art en­thu­si­asts.

His­tory and Charm A brief look into Bi­tossi’s be­gin­nings.

Through­out the 20th cen­tury, Bi­tossi ceram­ics were in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar and dis­tinc­tively unique thanks to their bright col­ors and re­mark­able tex­tures. But how did a small Ital­ian ceram­ics com­pany grow to be­come a ma­jor pro­ducer of mid­cen­tury col­lectibles?

• START AT THE BE­GIN­NING Guido Bi­tossi founded Man­i­fat­tura Cava­liere Bi­tossi e Figlia (Man­u­fac­turer Sir Bi­tossi and Sons) in 1921 in Mon­telupo Fiorentino, Italy. The fam­ily had been in­volved in mak­ing roof tiles for cen­turies, and the 1921 en­ter­prise was geared to con­tinue mak­ing these roof tiles plus floor tiles, ev­ery­day house­hold ce­ramic items and some art pot­tery.

• TRUE ARTISTRY Tra­di­tional pro­duc­tion was renewed thanks to the art di­rec­tion of Aldo Londi, whose at­ten­tion to de­tail and cre­ativ­ity led Bi­tossi into a golden age of sorts, pro­duc­ing some of the com­pany’s most no­table col­lec­tions—like the fa­mous Rimini Blue. This col­lec­tion of blue glazed an­i­mals is ar­guably the most iconic of Bi­tossi’s work, and put the com­pany on the map dur­ing the 1950s and ’60s. The stylis­tic charm of these pieces con­tin­u­ously draws in new col­lec­tors and art en­thu­si­asts.

The Bi­tossi col­lec­tion is reg­u­larly a sub­ject of re­search be­cause of its ARTIS­TIC VALUE and HIS­TOR­I­CAL IM­POR­TANCE.

BE­GIN­NING THE CRAZE

Max’s love for col­lect­ing be­gan with a gen­eral love for mid­cen­tury fur­ni­ture and dé­cor. “In want­ing to re­search some pieces of fur­ni­ture I had al­ready found, I came across a Mid­cen­tury Mod­ern Face­book group. I re­ally give them a lot of credit, be­cause it is a [very] com­pre­hen­sive com­pi­la­tion of mid­cen­tury ex­perts and en­thu­si­asts,” states Max.

“I had seen some post­ings about Ital­ian ceram­ics, and it stuck with me when I found my first au­then­tic Bi­tossi piece.” It was through this com­mu­nity of peo­ple that Max dis­cov­ered how spe­cial Bi­tossi ceram­ics are and found his pas­sion for cre­at­ing a col­lec­tion of his own.

RE­SEARCH­ING AND HUNT­ING

Over the past five years, Max de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in var­i­ous ce­ramic mak­ers other than Bi­tossi, and dove into re­search­ing more about the en­tire genre of Ital­ian ceram­ics. “Prob­a­bly 90 per­cent of all of the pieces in my col­lec­tion I have found online through re­search and check­ing au­then­tic­ity,” Max ex­plains. “Liv­ing where I do, I may come across four or five pieces ev­ery few years.” He con­tin­u­ously adds new pieces to his col­lec­tion and cre­ates posts about his find­ings.

ARTIS­TIC SPE­CIALTY

The jour­ney of Max’s col­lec­tion be­gan sim­ply from his gen­eral in­ter­est in a spe­cific time pe­riod and grew into a love for col­lect­ing art­work. “I learned a lot about Aldo Londi, the fa­mous art di­rec­tor who worked at Bi­tossi dur­ing the height of the Mid­cen­tury Mod­ern era, and truly ad­mire his work,” Max says. “As a pho­tog­ra­pher, I be­gan ap­pre­ci­at­ing the pieces more as an artist than just a col­lec­tor.”

The Bi­tossi col­lec­tion is reg­u­larly a sub­ject of re­search be­cause of its artis­tic value and his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance. The growing col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween col­lec­tors and afi­ciona­dos of this style keeps the his­tory alive and brings new en­thu­si­asm to the beau­ti­ful art­work of the mid mod era.

THE GREEN SPONGE GLAZE ON THESE PIECES GIVES A SOFT, THREE­D­I­MEN­SIONAL TEX­TURE REM­I­NIS­CENT OF MOSS. BOT­TOM: THESE IKANO DÉ­COR FIG­URINES FEA­TURE THE SIG­NA­TURE GOLDEN CIR­CLES FOUND ON ALL CERAM­ICS WITHIN THIS STYLE.

TOP: MAX’S COL­LEC­TION CON­TAINS A VA­RI­ETY OF ITAL­IAN CERAM­ICS IN­CLUD­ING SEV­ERAL BI­TOSSI PIECES FROM THE RIEDIZIONI ARCHIVIO STORICO AND RIMINI BLUE COL­LEC­TIONS. RIGHT: BI­TOSSI BULL FIG­URINES WERE IN­CRED­I­BLY POP­U­LAR IN THE 1950s AND ’60s, COM­ING IN A VARIET

THIS BULL IS A PART OF THE SPAGNOLO DÉ­COR, WHICH USED RE­OC­CUR­RING SPAN­ISH MO­TIFS THROUGH­OUT. BE­CAUSE OF ITS STRIK­ING BLUE COLOR AND UN­USUAL USE OF TEX­TURE. ARTIST ALDO LONDI MADE THIS STYLE OF GLAZ­ING ICONIC.

ABOVE: RIMINI BLUE IS THE MOST POP­U­LAR STYLE OF BI­TOSSI CERAM­ICS BOT­TOM: THESE CERAM­ICS ARE PART OF THE ETR­USCAN DÉ­COR FEA­TUR­ING AN OR­ANGE GLAZE. THE TERM ETR­USCAN IS USED TO DE­SCRIBE A STYLE DE­RIVED FROM EARLY CEN­TRAL ITAL­IAN

CIV­I­LIZA­TIONS THAT WERE HEAV­ILY IN­FLU­ENCED BY GREEK ART.

THESE BI­TOSSI TRI­AN­GLE CERAM­ICS FEA­TURE AN IN­CRED­I­BLE AMOUNT OF TEX­TURE IN THE GLAZE AS WELL AS A MIX OF DIAMOND AND TRI­AN­GU­LAR PAT­TERNS THROUGH­OUT.

ABOVE: THESE PIECES IN­CLUDE THE SIG­NA­TURE TEX­TURES FOUND IN MOST BI­TOSSI PIECES WITH A BRIGHT YEL­LOW GLAZE. LEFT: THIS BI­TOSSI STRIPED DÉ­COR CAME IN TWO COLOR VARI­A­TIONS. THIS PIECE USES THE COOLER COLOR COM­BI­NA­TION CALLED “CAM­BO­DIA DÉ­COR,” WHEREAS THE WA

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