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This special edition of the Decorative Arts Society Journal was produced in association with the William Shipley Group for RSA History, an independent body which organised a conference in November 2012 on the International Exhibition of 1862.
This article on the Purnell table and vase reveals the various sources of design, from those of the connoisseur Thomas Hope to a published collection of neoclassical vases, that were used to create an unusually well realised and unique testimonial piece. Research into the recipient of the table and vase, Purnell Bransby Purnell (1791-1866), demonstrates how appropriate the design would have been to his preferences and taste.
Designed by William Burges and painted by fourteen young artists between 1859 and 1863, the ‘Great Bookcase’ was recently displayed for the first time at the Ashmolean Museum. Made to hold books on art and architecture, it is painted with a sophisticated iconographic scheme relating to the pagan and Christian arts. Despite acknowledging that it was not ‘acceptable to present taste’, Kenneth Clark’s acquisition of the bookcase for the Ashmolean in 1933 was remarkably far-sighted. Nevertheless, it was to take over eighty years before the bookcase was placed on public display at the museum.
Through visual and technical examination, this article explores the work of William Burges and other artists between 1859 and 1862 in completing the painted decoration of his ‘Great Bookcase’. In particular, it attempts to understand the various stages, methods and materials of production, and to draw parallels with Burges’ ideas on medieval furniture. Later alterations to the structure and a connected simplification of the decorative scheme are also considered as part necessary, part aesthetic, responses to the bookcase falling over and being damaged in 1878.
The French enamel artist Charles Lepec (1830-90) first reached an audience outside France through his participation at the London International Exhibition of 1862. It was on this occasion that he came to the attention of Alfred Morrison (1821-97), who would become his greatest patron. When Lepec planned his stand at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1867, a large proportion of his display was borrowed back from Morrison. This article examines Lepec’s contribution in 1867, and how it led to widespread critical success. The opportunity is also taken, using previously unpublished contemporary documents, to examine aspects of this particular World’s Fair, and how Lepec was situated and considered in the company of his fellow participants.
Olivier Hurstel and Martin Levy
Prompted by the British Museum’s acquisition of a Pilkington’s lustreware vase given by William Burton to C. H. Read, a former Keeper at the British Museum, this article focusses on the unpublished correspondence between Burton and Read in the British Museum. Letters written between these long-standing friends over two decades reveal how the interest in contemporary manufactures fed into the huge emphasis then placed on connoisseurship – an indispensable part of any collecting activity. In so doing it uncovers much new information about the collecting world and its pre-occupations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The approach taken by Read and Burton of looking very carefully at quality and method of manufacture was basic at the time because of the problems museums across Europe were facing, which were all to do with nineteenth century reproductions and fakes. Burton’s analyses and experiments gave Read the answers he needed to identify modern copies of historic ceramics, demonstrating that relationships with contemporary manufacturers were thus a crucial part of a curator’s role in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century – just as they are today.
Three important London-made art pottery collections had been acquired by the new London Museum by the end of the 1920s. A small but well-provenanced group of Doulton art pottery that had belonged to George Wallis, the keeper of the art collections at the South Kensington Museum, was purchased in 1912. A solicitor, Owen B. Gem, donated a large and significant collection of Martin ware just after the First World War. Then, in 1923, P. A.S. Phillips, a major benefactor of the London Museum, gifted a dozen pieces of William De Morgan pottery of exceptional quality, including vases and a charger in the Persian style. This article examines the motivation of the three collectors and illustrates the range of their collections. Just at the moment when these items entered the museum’s collection, fashions were changing and the appreciation and popularity of late Victorian art pottery had begun to wane.
This article is an expanded version of the paper of the same title given at a symposium on the re-discovery of the Victorians at the Ashmolean Museum in May 2016. Drawing on the recent acquisition by the V&A Archive of Art and Design of the Handley-Read Family Papers, it sheds some new light on Charles Handley-Read’s thoughts about the philosophy of collecting, and his ideas for the future of the Handley-Read Collection, largely in his own words.
Most histories of modern ceramics and glass tend to focus on the avant-garde. Instead, this article explores the overlooked potential of historicist design, viewed through the lens of a small and, in some ways, remote nation’s material culture -- Norway. In spite of rich craft traditions, Norway had little history for ceramics and glass. Catering to national sympathies in an age of rapid modernisation, these new designs alluded to the national heritage whilst simultaneously reshaping its subject. A range of case studies traces this development.
George Wragge Ltd was one of the key stained glass providers for secular decorative glazing schemes in Manchester and Salford, and one of the most significant stained glass makers in the North of England at the height of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Upon his retirement at the age of forty-five, George Wragge (1863-1932) had established and overseen an extremely successful business in the applied arts, including stained glass, and had been managing a group of talented individuals whose work was responsive to a variety of contexts. Their dynamism and skill combines to create spectacular compositions in stained and decorative glass in some of Manchester’s most opulent buildings of the late Victorian and Edwardian period. There is a lack of knowledge and awareness of the significance of companies such as Wragge’s, who were active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This article aims to broaden the scope of enquiry into Arts and Crafts stained glass to include domestic, recreational and commercial contexts, settings which had fewer constraints on form and content of windows as compared with ecclesiastical settings.
Arthur Romney Green began making furniture in 1900, only after having worked for some years as a maths teacher in South Africa, and is probably less well-known than certain other craftsmen identified with the Cotswold School. However, his extensive writing, which includes an unpublished autobiography, sheds new light on the left-leaning craft communities to which he belonged, as well as on his own evolution as a woodworker. His style would be formed in part by fellow craftworkers in Haslemere and Hammersmith, and through the creative partnership he long maintained with his brother, a successful architect. His own inner resources included his original calling of mathematics and a belief in breadth of experience as the key to creativity.
This article presents an overview of many of the designers, makers and artists who moved to the new Garden City of Letchworth, Hertfordshire, in the years from its beginnings in 1903 to the First World War.These included Alec Hunter and the St Edmundsbury Weaving Works; the bookbinder Douglas Cockerell; W. H. Cowlishaw and the Iceni Pottery; and the woodworker Stanley Parker. The article examines the concept of the ‘Simple Life’, so important to many of those who made the pioneering move to the new town. An appendix gives brief information on thirty key figures.