Grete Prytz Kittelsen

Grete Prytz Kittelsen

Grete Prytz Kittelsen (1917 – 2010) Born Margrethe Adelgunde Prytz in Oslo, Norway, Kittelsen was a goldsmith, enamel artist, and designer. She is among the most well-known Norwegians in the Scandinavian Design movement and has been called by many, “the “Queen of Scandinavian Design”

She studied at Oslo’s National College of Art and Design from 1936 to 1941 and worked in her family’s firm, J. Tolstrup from 1945 to 1984. Grete benefited from her family’s involvement in the jewelry trade, as well as from international connections she formed throughout her life.

Her family’s firm was established in 1832 and produced a long line of goldsmiths. Grete was trained to be part of the fifth generation of the family trade. Early in her tenure in the family business, she discovered enamelwork, an art form she would spend her life reinventing by pushing the form’s boundaries.

She revolutionized the engraving technique on surfaces where enamelwork is done. Grete employed a cutter similar to a dentist’s drill. It allowed greater precision as well as more freedom to cut the base metal where she worked the enamel. This allowed for deeper cuts and deeper colors plus unique textures beneath the surface.

In the 1952 exhibition, “Light on the enamel art of Norway” held at the Oslo Museum of Applied Art, her work was recognized as special by the display, among other pieces, of a deep blue dish approximately 70 cm wide.

Kittelsen designed numerous works of silver, vitreous enamel and plastic. She sometimes collaborated with her husband, Arne Korsmo, an architect and professor at the Norwegian Institute of Technology, whom she married in 1945 and divorced in 1960.

Kittelsen pioneered the use of large-scale manufacturing methods utilized by later industrial designers. As recipient of a Fulbright grant, Kittelsen lived in the United States in 1949 and 1950, where she studied at the IIT Institute of Design.

An artist with an exceptionally broad scope, Kittelsen designed jewelry and one-of-a-kind silver articles for her family’s firm. She also designed utilitarian items in enameled steel and cast iron that found their way into thousands of homes in Scandinavia, the United States, and worldwide. 

For half a century Grete Prytz Kittelsen was part of the community of modernist architects and designers that included Ray and Charles Eames, Walter Gropius, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mies van der Rohe. As one of the leading artists of the Scandinavian Design movement, Kittelsen received many awards and honors in the 1950s including the Lunning Prize in 1952 and, in 1954, the Grand Prix at the Milan Triennale for her enamel collection. In 1957 and 1961, she received gold medals at the Milan shows.

Her designs were often inspired by American art and characterized by clear, plain colors and simple shapes. Her jewelry designs were informal and inexpensive made from silver and vitreous enamel. Among Kittelsen’s most famous jewelry designs are the “Domino” series of finger rings.

She is also known for bowls, dishes, plates and utensils that utilize her various patterns including “Lotus” with its cheerful colors and simple leaf like designs. Also notable are many of her enameled plates with ghostly patterns of lines and simple geometric shapes surfacing from deep colors.

Kittelsen was on the World Crafts Council board from 1968 to 1983 and was an honorary member in 1984. She was also President of the Norwegian National Association of Arts and Crafts from 1975 to 1978 and made a Knight, First Class, of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav in 1986.

In 2008 she was honored with a large exhibition in the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design that showcased 360 of her works. As late as 2003, she continued to work in design and enamelwork, having been inspired after returning from a trip to China.

Grete Prytz Kittelsen died at age 93 in Oslo 25 September 2010.

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