Klásterec nad Ohri

Klásterec nad Ohri


The person behind the establishment of the porcelain manufacture in the Czech city of Klášterec in 1794 was the former wood-reeve of Count Franz Joseph Thun, Mikuláš Weber who began to explore the kaolin deposits at the Thun estates when he was pensioned. He invited the Thuryngian porcelain spinner Johan Fetzer to experiment which him in porcelain production. Fetzer prided himself on the knowledge of the Arcanum, i.e. the secret of the production. His incapacity, however, resulted in the need to hire the arcanist Johann Sonntag the very next year, who at least succeeded in establishing a production of a rather low-quality porcelain that resembled pottery. Not even the following engagement of more capable professionals helped achieving commercial success, and the authorities persistently rejected to acknowledge the products as porcelain. This is why the company was soon rented to Christian Nonne from the Thuryngian city of Volkstedt who finally perfected the production technology.

As soon as the rental contract expired in 1803, the Count Joseph Johann Thun decided to take over the enterprise and then rented it to businessman Josef Melzer and foreman Rafael Habertitzel in 1805. The two enterprising spirits initiated the gradual shift from the hitherto rather undemanding Thuryngian shapes and décors to porcelain executed after Meissen and Viennese models. They also succeeded to hire competent painters, and the quality of their products thus achieved a decent European quality around 1815.

Further development of the company arrived after 1820 when Count Joseph Matthias Thun decided to take over the porcelain manufacture entirely into his own management. The application asking for receiving a privilege was met in 1822. Equally as the rival company in Slavkov, the count established shops in large cities of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. The factory reached the maximum heyday in 1835 thanks to its director, Jan Hillard. Hillard increased the quality of the potsherd and expanded the assortment of products with wash basins, candlesticks, mortars, crucifixes and other items.

The next more essential increase in the Klášterec porcelain manufacture came with the arrival of Karl Venier, a graduate from the Prague Polytechnic. From 1850, the Klášterec enterprise began fully involved in figural sculpture, achieving the absolute top amongst the Czech competitors around 1860. It was mainly due to its collaboration with Arnošt Pop who was otherwise active in a Prague porcelain manufacture.

When Karl Vernier left the company in 1872, however, it was the beginning of the slow decline in its production quality. In the last quarter of the century the manufacture found its artistic models in the German Neo-Renaissance. And although Klášterec was able to retain a good standard of porcelain painting to the end of the century, it was forced to gradually lower the price of its products equally as other Czech porcelain manufactures, and thus even the demanding and decorative techniques had to give way to the cheaper, industrial ones. The hand-made painting was then, except the luxurious products, replaced by printing in 1872.

Art Nouveau influenced the company’s shapes and décors into only a minimum extent. The shapes inspired by historical models and the printed décors were employed as long as to the 1920s, when new models drawing from historical styles were developed. The latter are used to this day.

Into lesser extent, also forms in the Art Deco style were developed especially for the American market, and there moreover appeared clear geometric shapes merely decorated with a sober linear décor during the 1930s under the influence of Functionalism.

The Thun family owned the enterprise up to the nationalization in 1945. In the 1950s, the Klášterec porcelain manufacture established an art department which employed artists Jaroslav Ježek and, today unrightfully omitted, Karel Havlíček. The period nevertheless was not favorable to the realization of their designs, and we thus know only several prototypes held in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague. Between 1954 and 1955 the modeler Jaroslav Jetmar designed the modern shape “Giovanna” upon the requirement of the company’s director. It was the first modern serial-produced set after the Second World War. The porcelain manufacture is otherwise involved in producing historical shapes to this day.