Artists & Designers

Karasz, Ilonka (American, born in Hungary, 1896-1981)

The multitalented Hungrian-born designer Ilonka Karasz, an important member of New York City’s émigré colony, was engaged by silver manufacturer Paye & Baker to design several modern silver-plated holloware lines introduced in 1928. Karasz's silver was illustrated in periodicals such as House Beautiful, American Architect, and Creative Art in 1928 and 1929, and in the book Form and Re-Form by Paul T. Frankl, which was published in 1930. Her work was also shown at the American Designers' Gallery in 1928 and 1929 and in the Newark Museum's exhibition Modern American Design in Metal in 1929. In every instance, Karasz, who was only a handful of prominent women designers in the 1920s, was recognized by name as the designer.

Her father, Samuel Karasz, was a silversmith in Budapest, and the influence of the German Bauhaus design school on her work was obvious. The rigorous reduction of form to cylinder, sphere, cube, or cone was an aspect of Bauhaus theory and practice that was taught by professor László Moholy-Nagy in the German art school's metal workshop, as was serial production after 1923. Karasz’s silver designs demonstrate her knowledge of and alignment with these ideals. For the objects she designed for Paye & Baker, Karasz drew from Bauhaus ideology and from objects designed by Marianne Brandt and fabricated in the Bauhaus metal workshops, especially Brandt's early work in Weimar. Karasz would have known German metalwork from European design periodicals and from published accounts of two exhibitions, the International Art Trade Exhibition in Monza, Italy and the European Applied Arts Exhibition in Leipzig, Germany, both held in 1927.

Adapted from

  • Jewel Stern, Modernism in American Silver: 20th Century Design (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 77, 84.