Inside the Collection

Meet the curator- Eva Czernis-Ryl

Eva Czernis-Ryl
Photography by Marinco Kojdanovski © Powerhouse Museum, all rights reserved

Eva and part of the Doulton display in the ‘Inspired!’ exhibition. Above Bilton’s waratah plaque and jug, there is a stunning vase painted about 1900 by Edward Raby.

Eva Czernis-Ryl

What is your specialty area?
I trained as an art and design historian and curator in Poland and my interests encompass decorative arts and design from the 17th century to now, mainly European and Australian. Some focus areas have been Meissen porcelain, Australian colonial gold and silver, Australian Art Nouveau, European and Australian product design and studio glass, metalwork and jewellery. At the Powerhouse, I’m responsible for a range of collection areas from ceramics and glass to metalwork and jewellery.

How long have you been working at the Museum?
Since 1985, when I joined the project team researching and developing exhibitions for the new Powerhouse Museum (opened in 1988).

Favourite object in the collection?
The Museum has an outstanding collection of early Doulton ceramics and among its many rare and striking objects is a pair of little-known porcelain wall plaques featuring red waratahs (Australian bush flowers) by the English artist Louis Bilton. Bilton’s luscious waratahs are magnificent! He painted one plaque when in Sydney in 1886 to illustrate ‘The picturesque atlas of Australia’ and it secured him a gold medal at the Centennial Exhibition in Melbourne. Its pair (see main image), which is almost identical, was painted in the Burslem studio soon after Bilton joined Doulton as a painter in 1892.

I suppose I should also mention my weakness for teapots (and kettles!) and tea services as seen from both social history and design perspectives. We have an exciting selection and among my favourites must be the 1878 Japanese-inspired kettle by Christopher Dresser, England’s pioneer of industrial design. Sharing the honour, are three sculptural tea and coffee sets, also in silver, crafted more recently in Italy and designed by three prominent architects: Aldo Rossi, Zaha Hadid and Melbourne’s Denton Corker Marshall. Interestingly, DCM was one of two Australian architectural firms (and 20 other architects ’fundamental to the debate on contemporary design’) invited by Alessi to submit designs for tea and coffee sets for their acclaimed ‘City of Towers’ project of 2002. The other was Tom Kovac Architecture who created another extraordinary set – I’m afraid it is not in our collection yet but you can see it in our book ‘Contemporary silver made in Italy’.

What piece of research or exhibition are you most proud of in your career at the Museum?
For the 1980s: ‘Style’, the Powerhouse’s inaugural decorative arts gallery which was considered highly innovative. Also my research for an article about our Meissen porcelain bust of Saxon court jester Schmiedel (complete with a mouse in his mouth), which is one of the most significant 18th century objects in our collection. This was pre email/internet era and my research took me to Dresden, then in East Germany, where my interest in Schmiedel was treated with great suspicion (I could be a Western spy!) and my contact, a librarian, would only meet with me secretly and definitely not in her public library. For the 1990s: exhibition ‘Australian gold and silver 1851-1900’. It was a sumptuous selection of about 190 treasures from public and private collections in Australia and England – some newly located and many never before on public display. The show remains the most important survey of Australian colonial jewellery and presentation pieces mounted in this country.

For the 2000s: exhibition book ‘Contemporary silver made in Italy’ and co-authoring, with Professor Kenneth Cavill, another publication about Australian studio and commercial jewellery and silver of the 1900-1950 period. Including stories about the Melbourne cup, Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race trophy and Arts & Crafts jewellery, this book will be published next year.

4 responses to “Meet the curator- Eva Czernis-Ryl

  • Dear Eva – could you please let me know the best place to get repairs done
    to a ceramic sculpture by Australian artist Joan Brassil? They’re rough hewn
    sort of 8 pieces which were dropped and chipped – we have all the component
    parts – Many thanks Barbara Tuckerman
    9389 9398

  • Dear Barbara
    I’ve spoken with our conservators and they gave me two contacts to try:

    Jill Petersen
    Ceramics Restoration
    Suite 11a
    1 Redman Rd
    DEE WHY NSW 2099
    Ph. 9984 0653

    Sydney Artefacts Conservation
    32-60 Alice St.
    NEWTOWN NSW 2042
    Ph. 9810 5335

    I hope that this helps and that your Joan Brassil sculpture will soon be well repaired bringing many more years of pleasure.
    Kind regards

  • Dear Eva,

    I am trying to identify a series of hand painted ceramic plates from 1887, with the artists initials CB or LB. They each have a postcard sized painting of a landscape scene from around the Sydney area with a floral embellishment outside of this area. I have plenty of photographs if this helps. I wonder if they might be Louis Bilton? Are you able to give me some advice about how to proceed in identifying them?

    Many thanks, Anne

  • Hi Eva…. My name is Michael…. my wife and I recently aquired some dessert plates that you may have an interest in. They appear to be part of a collection that may or may not be original plates from the Slater Collection.
    There are seven dessert plates and three comports all edged with gold and what appear to be hand painted ornithology subjects. I and others in the Doulton collectors group think that they may be reproductions although I can find no evidence of their manufacture….
    I am happy to send you hi rews photos via email of the back and front of the plates if you like.

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