Piet Zwart studied painting from around 1900, then taught drawing and made furniture and housewares in the 1910s and early 1920s. From 1921 to 1928 he served as an apprentice to the leading Dutch architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage. Zwart completed the design for this breakfast service on the recommendation of his master, who had likely received the commission from art patron Hélène Kröller-Müller. Berlage specified a six-sided form. The resulting product heralds modernist ideals that Zwart fervently embraced in his later career: to rid design of ornamentation and to embrace mass production with functionality as a primary concern. To this end, the breakfast service incorporates standard sizes that make many of the parts interchangeable and stackable. Contemporary users may be wary of eating or drinking from these dishes, however—their lovely color comes from the addition of uranium.
Chair and Curator of Photography
Art Institute of Chicago