Riga Porcelain Museum, 10 February - 9 April 2023
Riga Porcelain Museum's permanent exposition includes six sets of objects with décor designed by Mirdza Jurča. The aim of the collection exhibition is to set apart and highlight the artist and her unique style.
Mirdza Jurča (née Januža) (1921–2001)
Mirdza Jurča was born in Lithuania, in Žeimelis village near the Latvian border, in the family of Eduards and Lizete Janužs. In 1937 she graduated from Riga Applied Arts School and two years later began working as a painter in JSC "M.S. Kuznetsov" Porcelain, Faience and Pottery Factory (since 1940 - Riga Ceramics Factory), where her father was already working as a technician. Like other young porcelain painters at the time, Jurča learned her profession on the job. She took the courses for factory workers led by artist Romans Suta that offered practical training as well as theoretical knowledge – classes in history of artistic styles, composition, etc. In her first years of work, Jurča painted porcelain dinnerware based on the designs of Romana Suta, Vilis Vasariņš, Herberts Mangolds, and other artists, and became skilled in figurine painting too. Since 1944 she was a painter at Riga Porcelain and Faience Factory, and in 1953 became a designer in the recently set up Artistic Laboratory of the factory. From then on, her main job was creating décor designs for porcelain and faience wares. The artist continued to work on after the two porcelain factories operating in Riga were incorporated under the name of Riga Porcelain and Faience Factory, and later renamed Riga Porcelain Factory, until finally retiring in 1974.
Since 1957, Mirdza Jurča participated in exhibitions with items painted according to her own designs. Industrially manufactured dinnerware sets with her designs went on display in the All-Union Porcelain, Faience and Ceramics Industry Exhibitions in Moscow and international trade fairs abroad, as well as at home - in exhibitions introducing Latvian customers with the newest production and historical production samples of Riga Porcelain Factory.
From the earliest period of the artist’s work, the late 1930s and 1940, a number of meticulously painted figurines have been preserved. The figurines, designed by various authors, were first manufactured in Kuznetsov’s factory, and continued to be produced as the factory was nationalized and renamed Riga Ceramics Factory. Our collection also holds a few plates and vases painted by Jurča in this period, most often decorated with flower compositions according to her own or other artists’ designs.
The artist’s own style became more manifest in the early-1950s, when Jurča began working in the factory’s Artistic Laboratory. Her 1950s designs are distinguished by frequent use of Latvian folk ornaments, influenced by the era’s dictate that Soviet art should express the different national characteristics of the peoples united by the Soviet Union. Jurča became an influential representative of this opulent decorative style. A striking example of it is her hand-painted coffee service “Folk” (form designer Jēkabs Bīne) that was awarded the Silver Medal at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair.
Over the next decade when more modern and sleek forms and corresponding décor gained popularity, Jurča began using universal geometrical patterns, creating balance between the laconic forms of the vessels and the rhythm of the ornamental elements. A typical example would be the faience dinner service “Diāna” (form designer Valdis de Būrs), first produced in 1966, with its colourful and playful décor, applied by spray-painting and stencil. The décor variants for faience coffee service “Terēze” (form designer Levons Agadžanjans), created the same year, leave a similar impression. By this time Mirdza Jurča not only designed décors for porcelain and faience wares but also developed and introduced in production new decoration methods. In the mid-1960s she designed form and décor for a number of souvenirs such as the faience vases and mugs titled “Rīga” and was one of the leading designers of the factory’s faience workshop until 1968, when the production of faience wares was ceased.
In the 1970s, the artist returned to more lavish ornamental compositions, following the contemporary trends of porcelain design – the form of dinnerware sets once again became curved and decorative, with relief ornaments. A typical example of this era is the 1972 décor, titled “Brown ornament” for tea and coffee service “Ludmila” (form designer Levons Agadžanjans). While folk ornaments and flower compositions are still found in Jurča’s designs, the design samples from this period, in comparison with the earlier ones, are simpler, as necessitated by the technological requirements of modern mass production era. The artist was also trusted to decorate one-off representative items, such as the 1972 decorative vase (form designer Taisija Poluikēviča), created on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the USSR and featuring the Soviet emblem framed by a lavish décor of pink flowers.
For many years, the life and artistic career of Mirdza Jurča was closely intertwined with Riga porcelain. As the political regime, the design tendencies and customer requirements changed, the artist was able to follow and find always new approaches to porcelain and faience décor design, while also remaining faithful to the topics close to her own heart, such as folk ornaments and flower motifs.
Mirdza Jurča has created innumerable painting and decorative design samples for mass production of faience and porcelain items. She was equally proficient at creating the characteristic "folk style" ornaments of the authoritarian and totalitarian system and the sparse decorations of the later Soviet modernism era. Along with decoration designs for plates, cups, pitchers, services, and other items, Mirdza Jurča has created several dinnerware forms, particularly expressive ones - in faience.
In the photo: Coffee Set “Tauta” (Folk). Form design by Jēkabs Bīne, 1938 . Hand-painted by Mirdza Jurča. Riga Porcelain and Faience Factory. 1958. Photo by Gvido Kajons