Roger Capron was born in Vincennes in 1922. He was initially interested in drawing and studied at Paris’s School of Applied Arts (l’École des Arts Appliqués) from 1938 till 1943, graduating in 1943 and working for a time as an art teacher. In 1946, Capron moved to Vallauris in the south of France and co-founded the Atelier Callis ceramics workshop along with ceramists Robert Picault (1919-2000) and Jean Derval (1925-2010) in 1948. The town of Vallauris, located along the Cote d'Azur, was widely known for its pottery production dating back to Roman times. In the postwar years, the town experienced a pottery renaissance, as a number of artists—including Picasso—flocked there to work with the ancient materials and techniques. Atelier Callis began to produce small household objects, purposefully humble and meant for everyday use. With the popularity of French ceramics at the time, however, Capron saw the opportunity to expand his output. In 1952 Capron bought a disused earthenware in Vallauris (an old factory of culinary pottery in Font des Horts) which became the Atelier Capron, a small factory counting fifty workers. After a few years, Capron had established an international reputation, with many of his pieces in department stores like as Saks Fifth Avenue and Gimbels. By 1980, his factory employed around 120 people and specialized in beautifully tiled coffee tables—the work for which Capron is most famous today. His success attracted imitators; in 1982, the factory shut down due to competition from makers of cheaper, mass-produced tiles.
Much like Picasso, Capron’s design aesthetic was in constant evolution, as he worked in a variety of different styles from the 1950s onwards. In his early career, Capron was a proponent of the Formes Libres movement, characterized by undulating, expressionist lines and patterns. By the 1960s, however, he had moved on to a more controlled, modernist style, with bright glazes and bold geometric patterns. In the early 1990s, Capron still settled in Vallauris began another ceramic work, abandoning serial productions for unic pieces and after that real sculptures in the round. Toward the 20th century, Capron’s work—which ranges from coffee tables and side tables to jugs and vases—was thought to be cliché in France and was largely forgotten. Today, however, his pieces are again highly prized by collectors around the world.
Capron won many awards over the course of his career, including gold medals at the 1954 Milan Triennale and Expo ’58 in Brussels. In 2000, the New York Times wrote that Capron was” one of the most prolific and valued artisans of postwar European design.” In 2003, the Sèvres National Ceramics Museum hosted a major retrospective of Capron’s work. Several of his works are on exhibition at the Musée National de la Céramique in Sèvres and at the Musée Magnelli in Vallauris. He passed away in 2006 (Text Pamono and Galerie Kreo Paris/London).
Pictures: Roger Capron, portrait (source antiquedesign.fr); Roger Capron in his workshop (source Galerie Kreo Paris/London); artwork (source Mutualart); lampfoot, 1960s (source Galerie Canavese); large wall composition (source Modern Living LAS).