Peter Voulkos

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Peter Voulkos
Voulkos 1996.jpg
Peter Voulkos works on a stack, 1996
Born Panagiotis Voulkos
(1924-01-29)January 29, 1924
Bozeman, Montana
Died February 16, 2002(2002-02-16) (aged 78)
Bowling Green, Ohio
Nationality American
Education Montana State University, California College of the Arts
Known for Ceramic art, Sculpture
Movement Abstract expressionist
Peter Voulkos, Noodle. stoneware sculpture, 1996, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Peter Voulkos (popular name of Panagiotis Voulkos; January 29, 1924 – February 16, 2002), was an American artist of Greek descent. He is known for his abstract expressionist [1] ceramic sculptures,[2] which crossed the traditional divide between ceramic crafts and fine art. While his early work was fired in electric and gas kilns, later in his career he primarily fired in the anagama kiln of Peter Callas in New Jersey, USA, which helped to introduce and legitimize Japanese wood fired aesthetics to the United States.


Born as Panagiotis Harry Voulkos, the third of five children to Greek immigrant parents Aristovoulos I. Voulkopoulos, anglicized and shortened to Harry (Aris) John Voulkos and Effrosyni (Efrosine) Peter Voulalas, in Bozeman, Montana. He first studied painting and ceramics at Montana State University (then Montana State College) in Bozeman, then earned a MFA degree from the California College of the Arts. He began his career producing functional dinnerware in Bozeman, Montana.

In 1951 Peter Voulkos and Rudy Autio became the Archie Bray Foundation's first resident artists. Frances Senska taught both of them.[3] It was during his time there (Resident Director 1951-54) that the lineage of the work that was later in full bloom while working at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, California (USA) could be easily traced. In 1953, Voulkos was invited to teach a summer session ceramics course at Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina. After the summer at Black Mountain, Voulkous changed his approach to creating ceramics. The artist eschewed his traditional training and instead of creating smooth, well-thrown glazed vessels he started to work gesturally with raw clay, frequently marring his work with gashes and punctures.[4] In 1954, after founding the art ceramics department at the Otis College of Art and Design, called the Los Angeles County Art Institute, his work rapidly became abstract and sculptural. He moved to the University of California, Berkeley, where he also founded the art ceramics department, and where he taught from 1959 until 1985. Among his students were many ceramic artists who became well known in their own right.


He died of a heart attack by on February 16, 2002 after conducting a college ceramics workshop at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, demonstrating his skill to a live audience. He was 78.

Personal life[edit]

Voulkos is survived by his first wife, Margaret Cone, and their daughter, Pier, polymer clay artist;[5] his wife, Ann, and their son, Aris; and his brother and two sisters.


Peter Voulkos and Peter Callas working on a 1998 Stack in Belvidere, NJ.

Voulkos' sculptures are known for their visual weight, their freely-formed construction and their aggressive and energetic decoration. During shaping he would vigorously tear, pound, and gouge their surfaces. At some points in his career, he cast sculptures in bronze; and in early periods his ceramic works were glazed or painted and/or finished with painted brushstrokes. In 1979 he was introduced to the use of wood firing in anagama kilns by Peter Callas; who became Voulkos' collaborator for the next 23 years. Most of his late work was wood-fired, and Voulkos spent the second half of his career partnering with Callas and his anagama. This unique partnership, and the resulting work, is considered by many curators and collectors to be the most exuberant period of his career.

The American Museum of Ceramic Art (Pomona, California), di Rosa[6] (Napa, CA), the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Japanese Folk Crafts Museum (Tokyo), the National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne, Australia), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (New York City), the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, the Oakland Museum of California, the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC); the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the University of Iowa Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum are among the public collections holding work by Peter Voulkos.[7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ LA Modern
  2. ^ DeYoung Museum
  3. ^ "Frances Senska - Art All The Time". Montana PBS. March 21, 1997. Retrieved October 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ Sorkin, Jenni (2016). "Peter Voulkos". Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957. p. 272. ISBN 9780300211917. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "The Collection". Retrieved 2016-11-03. 
  7. ^ In Memoriam of Peter Voulkos University of California, Berkeley
  8. ^ Honolulu Museum of Art wall label, Untitled Plate, 1995, accession 2014-80-29


  • Smith, Roberta. Peter Voulkos, 78, A Master of Expressive Ceramics, Dies, New York Times, Feb. 21, 2002, p. B9.
  • Peter Voulkos Biography (1924–2002) (Retrieved 2006-10-30)
  • (2006) Peter Voulkos: Chronology, artnet Worldwide Corporation, New York, NY (Retrieved 2006-10-30)
  • Peter Selz (June 2002) In Memoriam, California Alumni Association, Berkeley (Retrieved 2006-10-30)
  • Scott Savitt (Feb. 2002) Obituary, The Berkeleyan Online, UC Berkeley’s Office of Public Affairs, The Regents of the University of California (Retrieved 2006-10-30)

Further reading[edit]

  • Rhodes, Daniel (1959) Stoneware and Porcelain: The Art of High-Fired Pottery Philadelphia: Chilton Book Company, Pennsylvania, 1959.
  • Coplans, John (1966) Abstract Expressionist Ceramics (exhibition catalogue), University of California, Irvine, 1966.
  • Read, Herbert (1964) A Concise History of Modern Sculpture New York: Oxford University Press, New York, 1964.
  • Beard, Geoffrey (1969) Modern Ceramics London: Studio Vista, United Kingdom, 1969.
  • Fischer, Hal (1978) "The Art of Peter Voulkos", ARTFORUM, November 1978, pp. 41 – 47.
  • Slivka, Rose (1978) Peter Voulkos: A Dialogue with Clay New York Graphic Society in association with American Crafts Council, New York 1978.
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1978) Peter Voulkos: A Retrospective 1948-1978 San Francisco, California, 1978.
  • Preaud, Tamara and Serge Gauthier (1982) Ceramics of the 20th Century New York:Rizzoli International, New York. 1982.
  • MacNaughton, Mary et al. (1994) Revolution in Clay: The Marer Collection of Contemporary Ceramics, Scripps College, Claremont, California, in association with The University of Washington, Seattle, 1994.
  • Slivka, Rose and Karen Tsujimoto (1995) The Art of Peter Voulkos, Kodansha International in collaboration with The Oakland Museum, Oakland, California, 1995.
  • Danto, Arthur Coleman and Janet Koplos Choice from America: Modern American Ceramics Het Kruithuis, Museum of Contemporary Art. 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, pp. 9–12, 16-9, 104-7, 133. 1999.
  • The American Art Book London:Phaidon Press Limited, p. 467, 1999.
  • Cooper, Emmanuel (2000) Ten Thousand Years of Pottery, 4th ed., Philadelphia-Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.
  • Faberman, Hilarie, et al. (2004 )Picasso to Thiebaud: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Collections of Stanford University Alumni and Friends, Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University. Palo Alto, California. 2004.

External links[edit]