A new artistic term took root in France around 1900: l’art du feu, meaning the art of fire. The term had a qualitative sense but also referred to the production process of baking clay.
A significant proportion of Norwegian ceramic artists in the early 20th century embraced Art Nouveau. There was renewed interest in the craft among Norwegian artists, many of whom worked as designers for porcelain factories such as Porsgrund Porselænsfabrik and Egersund Fayancefabrik. Simple forms and colourful, often flowing glazes are typical features of Art Nouveau ceramics.
Norwegian ceramic artists were influenced in particular by Japanese pieces with their organic, flowing forms and use of materials and colour. Jugendstilsenteret has a wide selection of such works, some of which are Norwegian, ranging from the delicate to the grotesque.
Gerhard Munthe began designing for Porsgrund Porselænsfabrik in 1891. He wished to help forge a distinctive Norwegian aesthetic and believed there was great sales potential for Norwegian-designed underglaze porcelain. Hepatica was one of Munthe’s favourite motifs and can be seen as symbolizing the springtime of applied art in Norway. As well as being recognized as a national motif, it clearly alludes to Japanese art. The zigzags around the edges have been interpreted as an abstract depiction of icicles, but in Japanese art this shape symbolizes clouds, which would cause the hepatica to bloom. There were high hopes for the pattern when it entered production in 1893, but it was not a great commercial success, and production ceased in 1907.