Peter Voulkos was born in Bozeman Montana in 1924 to Harry John Voulkos and Effrosyni Peter Voulalas, both of whom were first generation Greek immigrants. Voulkos first began to study painting and ceramics in his early college years at Montana State University (then Montana State College) in Bozeman. After graduation, he moved to California to earn his MFA degree from the California College of the Arts.
Voulkos’ career had humble beginnings, producing functional dinnerware in his home town of Bozeman, Montana. In 1953, Voulkos was invited to teach a summer session ceramics course at Black Mountain College in Ashville, North Carolina and from there continued to make profound contributions to the field of ceramics in academia.
A shift in style appeared in his works after founding the ceramics department at Otis College of Arts and Design (Los Angeles County Art Institute) in 1954. The amount of praise he received from the public may have given him the confidence to move into more abstract and sculptural designs, merging high and low arts, which was seen as very progressive during this time.
Voulkos also founded the ceramics department at University of California, Berkeley where he taught from 1959 to 1985 and generated many successful students who became well known ceramicists. Voulkos unexpectedly passed at the age of 78 due to a heart attack after giving a demonstration of his craftsmanship to a live audience.
Works in Our Collection
Untitled, Two Abstract Figures in Clouds
Oil on canvas, 1955
49 x 57-1/4 inches
Gift of the Rothman Trust