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As the Art Nouveau movement increased awareness of the varied technical and aesthetic characteristics of Islamic and Far Eastern pottery, so the late 19th and early 20th centuries represented an extraordinary time for ceramic experimentation and innovation in Western Europe. In France, most of the novelties in pottery manufacture have been credited to major protagonists, such as Théodore Deck, Ernest Chaplet or Pierre-Adrien Dalpayrat. This paper explores new evidence to suggest how interaction between three French ceramic artists, the little-known Louis Franchet and Samuel Arnaud, and the better known André Metthey, may have led to significant developments in technique and style, particularly in the use of gold craquelé or crackle-glaze. Not only was such a distinctive glaze to become a hallmark of Metthey’s later works, but it was also to become increasingly popular for Art Deco ceramists. Moreover, the infamous Paris flood of 1910 may have been an unwitting catalyst in furthering such technical experiments.
In September 1890, Charles Robert Ashbee, the founder of the Guild of Handicraft, addressed a meeting of the newly established Birmingham Guild of Handicraft, an organisation consciously modelled on his own philanthropic venture. He offered the assembled audience of local dignitaries (including the Lord Mayor), advice on how their nascent enterprise could be developed, based on the experience of his own Guild established at Toynbee Hall, Whitechapel, only two years previously. By 1907, the harsh commercial realities of the early 1900s had forced Ashbee’s Guild into liquidation. Surprisingly, the Birmingham Guild not only managed to survive this difficult period but ultimately prospered, becoming one of the country’s leading architectural metalworking firms during the inter-war years. This article will explore how and why a small-scale, philanthropic ‘craft’ workshop of the late 19th century managed to evolve, adapt and ultimately, successfully re-invent itself in the 20th century.
1 The Ridings, Ealing, on the Hangar Lane Estate was an unashamed flagship for the International Modernist style. It was purchased as a new build by Marion Brownlie Blackwell, whose particular taste in modernism carried through into her decorative ideas for the interior of the property. The detailed quotes for the furnishings were supplemented by large pencil and watercolour sketches and included a variety of pieces—some were bespoke designs, some were adaptations of her existing pieces, while others were handmade to off-the-peg designs.
The process of furnishing this ‘moderne’ home continued from 1933 to 1938 and is documented in an archive of correspondence, designs and brochures that has recently become accessible for research. Fortuitously two related watercolour sketches have also come to light. These previously untapped primary sources describe and illuminate the way a person of relatively modest wealth and without obvious avant-garde connections embraced a very British modernism, in a suburban context that was rooted in the ideals of the Garden City movement.
Roger Shuff Yatol
This article celebrates the pioneering 20th century artist Paule Vézelay’s lesser known career in textile design. Drawing upon research carried out in private and public collections it is written to raise awareness of Vézelay’s wider artistic output for the international arts community – where she is known primarily as a British abstract artist through her painting, sculptures, prints and drawings. Her work in the medium is highlighted through a selection of dress and furnishing fabrics from the 1940s-50s that were produced by some of the leading textile manufacturers of the period in France, Holland, and the UK. These include Société Industrielle de la Lys, Metz & Co, Ascher Ltd, David Whitehead Textiles and Heal Fabrics. It recognises the important contribution that Vézelay made as an artist, working alongside leading textile designers of the time, to help raise the standards of British textile design and manufacture in post war Britain. It is hoped that the piece might act as a catalyst for an exhibition focusing on this side of her career, or at least go some way to satisfying the public’s interest in, and appreciation of, her gift for printed textile design.
Maison Christofle is a French goldsmithing company whose success has been associated for a hundred years with silver plate. The dynamism it displayed between 1965 and 1975 is exemplified by the modernisation of its production tooling, the rationalisation of its product catalogue, the redeployment of its commercial service and its emphasis on innovation. Under the direction of Albert Bouilhet (1929-2016), Vice-President then President of Christofle, new industrial, commercial and creative teams were set up throughout the enterprise. First we shall examine the situation of Christofle between 1945 and 1965, introduce the staff and the context in which they work, then look at the work created during the decade 1965-75. Among the new collections that appeared at that time, two lines in particular are examined in this paper: Christofle Contemporain and Christofle acier.
The Keatley Trust, founded in 1968 by collector John Keatley, aims to purchase the finest ceramics, glass, metalwork, woodwork, furniture, prints and book bindings created over the last hundred years. These objects are subsequently lent to museums around England, for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. Comprising almost 1500 pieces, the collection reveals the history of 20th century Britain, through art. In John Keatley’s opinion, this century represents the period of greatest transformation of the lives of most people in the history of Britain, with the greatest advances in living conditions, education, health, life expectancy and prospects of the ‘ordinary man’.
The result of numerous interviews with John Keatley (a long-standing Patron of the Decorative Arts Society), this article reveals the motivations and thinking of this most generous of collectors. It illustrates the breadth of the Keatley Trust collection, highlighting pieces currently on loan to The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and details a particularly strong group of objects that were displayed at key exhibitions during the mid-1930s. Finally, it examines the significant impact of John Keatley’s active engagement with contemporary craftspeople, resulting in numerous commissions that allow makers to work to their fullest capacity, with maximum imagination.