An Introduction to Danish Ceramics and Potters I

Map of Denmark

Denmark has a centuries old tradition for ceramics. Seen in proportion to
the population there has been a wealth of potteries. Nearly each village
had it’s own potter, a good many of which were also well known abroad in the 19th century.

We begin in the 19th century on Bornholm (a small island in the Baltic Sea) with Michael Andersen & Son, Roenne, Bornholm (1890-). The factory was founded by the potter Jens Michael Andersen, who’s 4 sons were all trained potters, working at the factory. At the beginning production was mainly of kitchen ware and models of works from associated artists, Greek vases and antiquated pots.

The oldest son Daniel Folkmann Andersen (1885-1959) was the most creative and artistic of the four and from 1905 he put his stamp on the artistic development of the factory. He introduced decorative animals and plants. Lead majolica glazes in 4-5 colors were employed, typical of the Art Deco style of the time. In the 1920s his brother Michael Ejner Andersen introduced the Majolica series “Dania” and “Kobolt”, also in the Art Deco style. In 1935 Daniel Andersen’s innovation “the Persia Technique” received the gold medal at the World Exhibition in Brussels.

In 1890s the factory used the stamp “Michael Andersen” in gothic lettering. 1916-1930 the same name was stamped in Latin letters and from 1930 the “3 herings” mark (the Town of Roenne’s Coat of Arms) was used. Some items can be marked “C.V. Kjaer”, a merchant in Copenhagen, who ordered ceramics after his own sketches with relief decorations. Today the factory has only a limitedl production of a few items.

An Introduction to Danish Ceramics and Potters IV

P. Ipsens Enke, Copenhagen (1843-1955)

Map of Denmark

The factory was established in 1843 by potter Rasmus Peter Ipsen (1815-60) from Bornholm.

When he was 13 years old, Peter Ipsen was sent into service at a brickyard, where he, in his own words, was carrying 4000 bricks each and every day, which marked him for the rest of his life. Later he was apprenticed with a joiner where he worked from 5am to 10pm which was so bad for his constitution that he had to quit.

A school friend found a job for him as a trainee at The Royal Copenhagen. He soon became a masterly thrower with a great sense for the design and colors, and in 1843 (28 years old) he had his own pottery and married Lovise Christine Ipsen (1822-1905).

Ipsen yellowgreen pot with pea pods by Georg Jensen year 1903 Ipsen yellowbrown walrus jug by Charles Boegh year 1903 Ipsen vase with fungus and parrot glaze by Chr. Joachim year 1905

Hanging flowerpots in terracotta was the livelihood of the factory, but also pots, amphorae vases painted in oil colors and figurines, often inspired by the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844).
Peter established contact with that times Danish artists – among these many sculptors, and he succeeded so much that he in 1847 could afford to build a new factory in Utterslev outside Copenhagen.

Ipsen orange pipe holder Ipsen braided bowl, 1875

Peter Ipsen died in an early life, only 45 years old (1860), his widow Lovise Ipsen continued his work, which was rather unusual in these days, but she had a good knowledge of the factory, as she had always been a regular visitor there. The oldest son Bertel Ipsen (1846-1917) who was also a potter, took over management in 1865.

Ipsen lustre glazed vase with gold glazed handles year 1875Ipsen parrot glazed floor vase with owls by Niels Norvil year 1915 Ipsen copper glazed vase, 1875

Bertel Ipsen continued in his father’s footsteps, with the “Thorvaldsen Style”, and he was represented at most world exhibitions. He opened shops in Paris and London. In 1872 Ipsens Enke (enke means widow) make their first glaze. In the early days, it can be difficult to distinguish Ipsen’s terracotta from L. Hjorth’s terracotta, if the items were unsigned. Often they used the same motives and models, and even though the 2 factories were competitors, they often cooperated and Hjorth now and then helped Ipsen with the production. Some of Hjorts potters also, from time to time, worked at Ipsen’s.

Ipsen amphore vase year 1875Ipsen, black glazed The Mermaids by Ellen Locher, 1905Ipsen yellowgreen swan vase by Axel Jensen year 1905

The style changed in the 1890’s, and they moved towards production of black fired terracotta. But with Thorvald Bindesbøll (architect and sculptor, 1846-1908), Georg Jensen (sculptor and silversmith, 1866-1935) and Christian Joachim (painter and potter, 1870-1943), the Jugendstyle (Art Nouveau) had it’s entry.

Thorvald Bindesbøll (1901)Thorvald Bindesbøll, who was one of the pioneers within Danish ceramics, was a very eccentric artist. His nickname was “Boelle” (danish for “Rough”). Either you loved him or you hated him. But Bertel Ipsen regarded him as exciting and had a good cooperation with him.

Georg Jensen made a few things for Ipsen, before he established his world famous silversmithy in 1904.

Ipsen vase with Danit glaze by Axel Salto, 1951.Christian Joachim was known for his vases with fungus motives. Even though he lost his right arm as a child, he studied to be a painter and was a skilled artist. He later became artistic leader of the Aluminia Faience factory, art director on The Royal Copenhagen.
In 1920-40 following new glazes were developed:

  • “Chameleon glaze” (shining in various colors added gold, platinum or silver)
  • “Jade glaze” (dull green)
  • “Danit glaze” (Red-lilac or blue-green in a big crackled network)
  • “Metal glaze” (mainly in green colors)
  • “Bronze glaze”
  • “Ivory glaze”
  • “Oxblood glaze”, etc.

Georg Thylstrup (silversmith and potter, 1884-1930 sculptor)
produced a number of fishwife’s mermaids and fabulous monsters.
Kai Nielsen (painter and sculptor, 1882-1924) is mostly known for his figurine “Venus Kalipygos”. The name is taken from the Greek god of love Aphrodite’s nickname “Kalipygos”. These figurines were in great demand.

Ipsen vase with celadon glaze by Axel Salto year 1951 Ipsen vase blue, with small neck

Ib Just Andersen (sculptor and silversmith, 1884-1943) produced in 1940 a few fish and mermaids, which are reminiscent of the figures and vases etc. he later produced in diskometal from his world famous silversmithy.

Besides from those already mentioned, a number of international ly known artists have been connected to factory – among those:

  • Lauritz Jensen (1859-1935 sculptor)
  • Jens Ferdinand Willumsen (1863-1958 painter)
  • Ellen Locher (1883-1956, sculptor)
  • Axel Salto (1889-1961, lithographic artist, painter and potter)
  • Axel Soerensen (1891-1967 potter)
  • Axel Jensen (sculptor)
  • Bode Willumsen (1895-1987 sculptor and potter)
  • Arno Malinowski (1899-1976 sculptor)
  • Charles Boegh (sculptor)
  • Adam Thylstrup (sculptor)
  • Niels Norvil (sculptor and potter)
  • Arne Bang (1901-1983 sculptor and potter)
  • Johannes Hedegaard (1925-, sculptor)

Ipsen figurine with jade glaze Venus Kalipygos by Kai Nielsen, 1910Ipsen Leda with the swan by Adam Thylstrup year 1937

From 1852-1935 Ipsen products have won countless numbers of awards on exhibitions all over the world’. The factories’ marks (Pressmarks) are:

  • P.I (1843-50)
  • P. Ipsen(1850-70)
  • P.Ipsen eneret (1871-1917)
  • P.I.E. (with a crown)(1918-55)
  • From time to time the signature of the artists themselves occur.

P. Ipsens Enke closed in 1955.

Danish Ceramics VII – The Turn of the Century
by Tove Jespersen, Klitgaarden Antique & Ceramics

Herman August Kähler Pottery, Nestved (on Zealand) 1839-1974

Map of Denmark

Posterity can thank potter Joachim Christian Herman Kähler (1808-1884) that he left the duchy Holstein in 1839 and established a workshop in Nestved. This way, the foundation stone to the biggest flagship within the Danish ceramics, was laid. In the first 30 years he produced all-night burners, spring water jars and articles for the everyday use in the kitchen. In 1872 his sons Herman August Kähler (1846-1917) and Carl Frederik Kähler (1850-1920) took over the pottery. Herman August took over the production of all-night burners. He however followed his intuition and started his own workshop, and in 1875 he established what we today know as Kählers Pottery in Nestved. Carl was left alone and decided to sell his part.

Herman August Kähler introduced the  signature, which since that time has been the mark on all Kählers products. In 1883 Vilhelm Klein (1835-1913, architect) from “the Copenhagen Drawing School for Women” was looking for a pottery where he could have his students’ ceramics fired. This resulted in a co-operation with Herman August Kähler. This co-operation gave Herman August the inspiration to start production of other items than all-night burners. He experimented again and again with glazes. The target was a red luster glaze, like the one used by the Italian maestro Giorgio from Gubbio in the 16th century. In 1888 he presented a ruby glaze which made him world famous. This ruby is today known as “Kähler red”.

Herman A. Kähler, 1890 (Kähler Rød)

In the meantime artists were eager to be a part of the Kähler studio in Nestved. Between 1885-1907 Hans Andersen Brendekilde (1857-1942, painter) decorated some items with motifs from fairytales and legendary figures – Trolls and witches. From 1886-1888 Carl Ove Julian Lund known as “deaf Lund” (1857-1936, china painter) tried fine underglaze painting; but this technique wasn’t as good on ceramics as on china, so this failed. From 1888-1914 Karl Hansen-Reistrup (1863-1929, painter and visual artist) became artistic leader of the pottery. He had a close cooperation with Herman August The vases and pots that he designed and Herman August turned, was decorated with modeled animal heads, which in their art-nouveau style was perfect suitable for the new “Kähler red” luster glaze. This cooperative work was presented at the World Exhibition in Paris 1889. The public was carried away by the “Kähler red” and with one stroke Kähler was world famous. Many international Museums made purchases.

Hansen-Reistrup produced a number of wall friezes – among those the “Peacock-frieze” in 1897, which was sold to the National Museum in Stockholm. The “Eagle-frieze” which can be seen at the Sèvres-Museum. Also the elephants at the Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen are his work. From 1889-1890 Laurits Andersen Ring (1854-1933, painter) produced only a few things – he preferred painting. In 1896 he married the daughter of Herman August Sigrid Kähler (1874-1923). Before her marriage Sigrid worked with flower decorations at the pottery.

From 1890-1891 Thorvald Bindesboell (1846-1908, architect and sculptor) was designing vases and pots with sgraffito (scratched patterns) and slipping in abstract motifs, in the French “Art Nouveau” style (period 1890-1910) in Germany it was called “Jugendstil” and in Denmark “Skoenvirke”. The Skoenvirke or the Jugendstil was a bit later and longer in Denmark. It was the same Style but the period was 1890-1920. Bindesboell is very dominating – a prima donna – and he doesn’t find that there is room enough for both him and Hansen-Reistrup. Herman August did not agree and the message to Bindesboell was “If you don’t like the heat, get out of the kitchen”. The years are extremely successful. The Kähler Pottery is winning prizes on exhibitions all over the world. They are selling to the leading galleries and art museums both in Europe and USA.

Herman H.C.Kähler, 1910Herman H.C. Kähler, 1910Herman H.C. Kähler, 1915

From 1901 the son of Herman August – Herman Hans Christian Kähler (1876-1940) takes over the leadership. A new era begins. Herman Hans Christian was tired of the “Kähler Red” and thought that it was time for a change. He was, like his contemporary Bertel Ipsen, from P. Ipsens Enke, fascinated by Bindesboell and his slipped ceramics. So it was a stroke of luck when Svend Hammershoei arrived to the pottery and started his production of slipped ceramics. From 1908 Herman Hans Christian takes up the horn painting again. This technique suits the pots good and ceramics decorated with slipped horn painting is typical for what we today associate with the “Kähler Style”. The Horn Painting was a difficult technique. The tool was a hollowed cow horn with a goose quill. The horn was filled up with the slip, which afterwards was dosed through the goose quill, used as a pen. Herman Hans Christian and his journeymen mastered the craft and often up to 10 horns were used at the same time decorating a vase. The first items were decorated in dark brown, blue and green with patterns in the Jugendstyle (Skoenvirke). Later on both colors and patterns became lighter.

1920’erneDekoration Signe Steffensen, 19251940’erne



Svend Hammershoei (1873-1948 painter) was the artist who had the longest cooperation with Kähler from 1893-1948 . In those years he developed all the time which is also reflected in his ceramics. Maybe he found inspiration while he was occupied with other activities as painting and writing (about Bindesboell). He had worked together with Bindesboell in the 1890s at G. Eifrig, Copenhagen Pottery. It was a tempestuous cooperation where Hammershoei’s great skill was put to use. Often he turned and did the modeling according to Bindesboell’s drawings and then Bindesboell just signed the works. In the beginning his vases and pots with slipped relief decoration in leaf ornamentation, was clearly impressed by Bindesboell. Later he tried an antique terracotta design, also with leaves ornamentations or with stamped impressions. Hammershoei then moved in the direction of geometrical design, with characteristic profiling, often fixed with small modeled”buds”. These items with the gray/black/white glaze (invented by Jens Thirslund) was an enormous success and today it is the kind of Kähler- ceramics which people associate with Hammershoei. Hammershoei never got married and had no children, but in his studio and on his many journeys his substitute children – his dolls – followed him.

1913-1941 – Jens Thirslund (1892-1942 painter). In 1914 he married Herman August’s daughter, Stella Kähler (1886-1948, decorator). He became artistic leader of the factory. Thirslund had an born talent for painting. A bohemian type, who set up his own area in the pottery as a real artistic den filled with all sorts of goods and chattels from floor to roof. It became a rendezvous for the artists from all over. The artistic inspiration he derived from the Oriental was often spiced with a sense of humor. He became a true master in painting with luster glazes.

Svend Hammershøi, 1920’erneJens og Stella Thirslund, 1915

In 1917 Herman August Kähler dies. After the 1st world war the number of agents worldwide were extended. Kähler ceramics were represented at most recognized museums, e.g. in the USA at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Items were sold through Zacho & Co in Hollywood, the Frankl Galleries in New York and The Associated Merchandising Cooperation.

Orangegul uranglasur, 1930’erneNils Kähler, stempeldek. 1930’erneSgrafitto teknik, 1940’erne

After Herman Hans Christian’s death in 1940 the 4th generation takes over. Nils Joakim Kähler (1906-1979, potter) takes care of the artistic side and Herman Joergen Kähler (1904-1996, potter) takes care of administration and glaze production. Nils Kähler had been working together with Hammershoei and continued this style, in a modern version with the gray/black/white Thirslund glaze. Cylindrical design in stoneware with yellow and turquoise glaze, often with stamped decorations in fishbone pattern. Besides the mark, Nils Kähler always signed his items with ‘Nils’. Nils Kähler left his stamp on the factory until 1968, when the two brothers separate and the factory closes in 1974. An era is finished in Danish ceramics but the many Kähler journeymen, who started their own potteries, all over Denmark uphold the grand traditions and the Kählers have for ever put their stamp on Danish ceramics.

Nils Kähler, 1960-70Nils Kähler, 1960-70Nils Kähler, saltglaseret 1970

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