Klytie PATE, High diving Enlarge 1 /1

Klytie PATE

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1912 – 2010

20 October, 1912 – 10 June, 2010

High diving c.1950 Description: Vase featuring two nude female divers as handles | tall, high shouldered circular, tapering to a short foot
Place made: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: ceramics, earthenware, glazed earthenware

Primary Insc: incised on base: 'Klytie Pate'; incised on base: 'High Diving'
Dimensions: 41.6 h x 25.3 w x 23.3 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1981
Accession No: NGA 81.317

Klytie Pate, along with Allan Lowe, was part of a small group of potters who, based in Melbourne between the two world wars, are now recognised as the pioneers in establishing the foundation for the current evolution of ceramic art in Australia. The lack of an established local tradition and limited access to current trends from overseas prompted a highly experimental phase during the 1930s and 1940s. These artists developed a style of ceramics distinguished by decorating surfaces with carving or incising, applying modelled ornament as handles or finials and experimenting with bold, bright glazes.

A wide range of sources has informed Pate’s work. Throughout her long career, ancient Egyptian and Chinese art have remained the artist’s strongest visual influences and this is evident in the carved decorations, subject matter and glazes of her pots. Better known for her elegantly carved lidded jars, High diving remains unique in Pate’s oeuvre for its refined simplicity. Although produced after the war, this vase represents an aesthetic popular in the 1930s with its theatrical, graphic and linear presentation of the figure and strong use of the silhouette to form ornamental handles. Pate’s experiments with the exotic glazes of oriental pottery are used to evocative effect on this work, with the softly golden figures poised on the body of this elegant vase as if to plunge into the lustrous green below. The colour of this vase and fluid posture of the diving figures evoke the essence of swimming and frolicking at the pool which is so much a part of the Australian way of life.

From an early age Kylie Pate came under the guiding influence of her charismatic aunt, the artist Christian Waller. Pate was educated in Melbourne and studied drawing at the National Gallery School there and later sculpture and modelling at the Melbourne Technical College. Pate is a vigorous artist who has remained singular in her vision, exhibiting her elegantly carved and strongly decorated vases and lidded jars until failing eyesight only recently curtailed her pottery production.

Jude Savage 2002


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002