Thursday, September 20, 2012

British and American Studio Wares

The reaction against the mass-produced pottery and porcelain of the early Victorian age came to a head after the Great Exhibition of 1851. Inspired by the writings of John Ruskin, small groups of artisans formed art union groups and thus paved the way for the Arts and Crafts Movement. Led by William Morris in England, its members sought to return to the values of the medieval guild system where hand-made objects were produced in small numbers by groups of dedicated craftsmen.

Early Lambeth Doulton 
On the whole, their ideas proved commercially unworkable, but many art potteries that started up at this time proved more successful and continued producing throughout the 19th and into the 20th century. Probably the largest commercial enterprise making hand-decorated stoneware and pottery was the Lambeth studios of Doulton.

Sir Henry Doulton did much to promote the emancipation of women by employing those newly graduated from the Lambeth School of Art to decorate his extensive range of ornamental and useful wares and the popularity of Lambeth stoneware was further enhanced by the work of the Martin brothers of Fulham and later Southall in London.

 Martin brothers Face jug

In the north of England, the arrival of William Burton and his brother Joseph at the Pilkington Pottery in Lancashire resulted in the production of some of the finest hand-decorated lustrewares ever manufactured. In Leeds, in Yorkshire, the Burmantoft factory was responsible for a range of Turkish-inspired hand-decorated wares in the manner of William de Morgan, the most celebrated Victorian art potter, who operated from various studios in the London area.

 Pilkington pottery

The most prominent of the Staffordshire art potters was William Moorcroft who worked for James Macintyre & Co. when he was a young designer, before setting up his own pottery in 1913 in Corbridge. To this day it produces superbly hand-decorated, well-designed pottery popular with collectors all over the world.

Moorcroft vases

In the United States, the works produced at the Rookwood Works in Cincinnati achieved international acclaim, as did those of George Ohr and the Newcomb College Pottery. The Rookwood Pottery, founded in 1880 by Maria Longworth Nichols, became famous internationally for its high-quality pieces, especially those showing native American Indian portraits painted by Matthew Daly in 1897 - 1903 and decorated in a "standard" glaze.

 Rookwood Pottery 

George Ohr was art potter who was creating eccentric designs in the artist's colony in Biloxi, Mississippi. A Dali-esque figure with an exaggerated moustache, he specialized in thinly walled, lightweight pieces fashioned on a wheel and fired in a wood-burning kiln.

George Ohr's teapot

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