In 1930, a young artist named Viktor Schreckengost was given an assignment at his job to create a bowl with a theme of New York, requested by an anonymous woman. Schreckengost, inspired by a visit to New York City on New Year’s Eve the previous year, began his process, and soon The New Yorker (Jazz) Bowl was created.
The anonymous buyer turned out to be Eleanor Roosevelt, wanting a present for her husband (and future President), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for becoming governor of New York. Eleanor went on to request more Jazz Bowls, and multiple were created by Schreckengost’s employer, the Cowan Pottery Studio. Many of these bowls are in museums and collections across the nation, and it is unknown how many were made.
To create the Jazz Bowl, Schreckengost used a technique called sgraffito (pronounced sgra-feeto). Sgraffito is an Italian word meaning scratched — ancient Romans would scratch through plaster on walls or paint on pottery to reveal a different color underneath. While the white clay of the bowl was still wet, Schreckengost painted a layer of black paint over it; once that was dry, he used a tool to scratch through the black paint and reveal the lighter clay underneath. Then, he dipped the entire bowl into a turquoise glaze, called Egyptian Blue.
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Look closely at the words, images, and shapes you see inscribed in the Jazz Bowl — how do these images relate to the title of the object?
Schreckengost, inspired by his recent trip to New York City, included words such as “jazz,” “dance,” “café;” images of dancers; and the city skyline. All these things signified to him New York and the Jazz Age, an era in the 1920s and 1930s where jazz music, dancing, and cultural freedom were celebrated. Egyptian Blue was a fashionable color at the time, popularized after King Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in 1922.
Eighty-six years later, another artist was inspired by the music associated with a city and created a bowl to illustrate that connection. In 2017, the High Museum of Art commissioned Roberto Lugo to make Hip Hop Bowl, a piece that pays homage to Schreckengost’s piece while honoring New York’s hip hop culture.
Decorations on Lugo’s bowl include musical notes, a boombox, a city skyline, and references to Def Jam Recordings and Wu Tang Clan. Look closely at Hip Hop Bowl. How is this bowl like the Jazz Bowl? How is it different?
Get Creative at Home
Do you have a favorite genre of music? Do you love classical music, pop, disco?
A lot of music genres have their origins in a city or particular place (reggae started in Jamaica, R&B in Philadelphia, hip hop in New York, and punk rock in London), but many are a fusion of sounds, cultures, and other influences. Whether your favorite kind of music has specific origins or unrecorded beginnings, consider the images, words, and objects that illustrate the music for you.
Put on your favorite music and get drawing!
On a piece of paper, begin drawing the first word or item that comes to mind. Make it big, like we see with the words “hip” and “hop” on Hip Hop Bowl. Then, start adding in other images, layering them on top of each other like Lugo and Schreckengost did with their bowls. Add in other details, shapes, and lines to fill the page and create your own music-inspired illustration!
We’d love to see your creations! Share your artworks on Instagram and tag #HighMuseumatHome.