"Normandie" shape pitcher
Peter Muller-Munk ( American, 1904 - 1967 )
Revere Copper and Brass Co. ( American, 1928 )
- designed 1935
Giving objects, even stationary ones, streamlined shapes was seen as a sign of progress and dynamism in the Depression years of the 1930s. Thanks to the emerging profession of industrial design and the need to enhance slumping sales figures, streamlined silhouettes were given to everything from buildings to buses and from cocktail shakers to vacuum cleaners. Furthermore, the modernity of these products was often enhanced through the use of new materials, including plywood, plastic, chromed steel, and aluminum. The end result was fashionable yet relatively inexpensive products that could be consumed on a mass scale and were not restricted to the wealthy upper class.
The Normandie pitcher, designed by German-born American Peter Müller-Munk, derives both its name and form from the famous French steamship the Normandie, launched by the French Compagnie Générale Transatlantique in October 1932. A symbol of speed, grace, and sophistication, the famed oceanliner made its first transatlantic voyage in 1935. That same year, the Revere Copper and Brass Company introduced the Normandie pitcher in its catalogue. The pitcher’s shape, according to the catalogue, was inspired by the “leaning streamlined stacks of the famous French liner.” However, the Normandie’s stacks leaned at a 10-degree angle and were round in section similar to stacks on other ships. More likely, Müller-Munk’s inspiration for the pitcher came from the liner’s modern and elongated prow, which came to a prominent point that projected out above the ship’s forefoot.
The gleaming quality of the chromium-plated sheet metal combined with its overt durability highlights Muller-Munk’s silversmith-turned-industrial designer background. With its smooth uninterrupted curves and handle, the Normandie pitcher is constructed from a single sheet of brass, and the slightly angled body is sealed at the front, base, and rim by a thin metal strip. The pitcher’s leaning tear-shaped form evokes a sense of forward momentum. This quality, combined with its unadorned and minimalistic design, embodies the aerodynamic streamlining trend that was so popular during the 1930s.
- David A. Hanks and Anne Hoy, American Streamlined Design: The World of Tomorrow (Paris: Flammarion, 2005).
- John Stuart Gordon, A Modern World: American Design form the Yale University Art Gallery 1920-1950 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Art Gallery, 2011).
- Revere Copper and Brass Company catalogue of 1936, n.p., Stewart Program Archives.
- Charles Venable, Art Deco and Streamlined Modern Design, 1920-1950, label text 1996.27, 11/18/2001 to 5/20/2002
- The manufacturer of the Normandie pitcher, Revere Copper and Brass Co., was founded by Paul Revere, an American silversmith and Patriot in the American Revolution. He is best known for alerting the colonial militia to the approach of British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord.