Spain has a very long tradition of ceramic crafts, producing earthenware, decorative tiles and fine porcelain, often with distinctive regional variations.
   Potteries were already flourishing in Castile, Aragon, Catalonia, Andalusia and Valencia at the time of the reconquest of Spain from the Moors, and the modern beautifully coloured Manises, Teruel, Granada, Talavera, and Puente del Arzobispo (Toledo) wares all derive ultimately from these long-established centres of production. In addition to its traditional forms, which included, especially in earlier periods, large decorated storage jars (tinajas), Spanish pottery has also been influenced by styles from abroad, particularly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Artistic movements have also had an impact, especially in Catalonia, where the advent of Modernism and later Noucentisme was exemplified in the work of potters such as Antoni Serra i Fiter (1869–1932), Francesc Quer (1853–1933), Josep Aragay (1889– 1969) and Josep Guardiola (1869–1950). Of particular importance for the development of modern art pottery was Josep Llorens Artigas (1892–1980). Trained in Barcelona and returning there in 1941 after some years in Paris, he won international recognition and major awards for his work, which was particularly noted for the quality of the glazing. He collaborated with major artists, and especially with Joan Miró, producing pots, sculptures and large ceramic murals, such as those in the UNESCO building in Paris (1958), Harvard University (1960) and Barcelona Airport (1971). The use of decorative glazed ceramic tiles (azulejos) on the lower half of walls, fountains and benches was a typical Moorish feature of the earliest formal gardens in the south of Spain, and examples of various types used as architectural decoration are to be seen in the Alcázar and the cathedral and churches of Seville, and the Alhambra in Granada. As new techniques developed, especially for easier mass production, so did the use of tiles for coats-of-arms over gateways, for panels such as the blue and white ones in the Alcázar and the Escorial, and for ceilings, floors and kitchens. As with traditional wares, there were distinctive regional styles of tile decoration, as well as changes in fashion under influences from abroad. In Catalonia Gaudí, Domènech i Montaner and Puig i Cadafalch made extensive and effective use of tiles in the Modernist style. Tile production continues to be an important industry in Spain, accounting for some 14 percent of the world total for paving and wall covering, with Porcelanosa tiles being particularly well known abroad.
   Among the treasures remaining from earlier centuries is the fabulous Porcelain Room in the Royal Palace at Aranjuez, the walls and ceiling of which are fully decorated with porcelain plaques crafted between 1760 and 1765 by Giuseppe Gricci of the Royal Buen Retiro Factory, Madrid. This was established in 1759 by Charles III with the help of Italian artists, and continued production with changes of style until 1808 when it was occupied by the French. Porcelain was also produced between 1775 and 1895 at the Alcora factory which had been opened for the production of earthenware in 1727. In 1951 three brothers set up a workshop in their own house in Almácera, Valencia, moving eight years later to Tavernes Blanques, and in 1969 building the workshop known as La Ciudad de la Porcelana (City of Porcelain) and thus establishing the first of the world famous Lladró factories which export their distinctive figurines to well over one hundred countries.
   Particularly fine collections of Spanish ceramics are to be seen in the Museum of Decorative Arts, Madrid; the Ceramics Museum of Manises, which traces the history of the local industry from the fourteenth century to the present day, and the Ceramics Museum of Valencia, which houses collections from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century, including tiled floors from Valencian mansions and five pieces of Picasso pottery.
   See also: crafts; visual arts

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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