Wedgwood in the nineteenth century

But the pâte sur pâte technique is complex and labor intensive, so only small quantities were produced at the factory. However, Wedgwood developed a new type of ware called Victoria ware, which gave the impression of pâte sur pâte, but was actually produced using more traditional and less costly methods: a combination of enameling and applied molded ornament (see Fig. 2).

Other commercial art wares developed at the factory after about 1880 utilized both painted and printed decoration, as well as gilding and slip techniques. One of these, called Auro Basalt, involved the use of heavy tooled gilding on a black basalt body (see Fig. 3). Another similar line was Golconda, a type of elaborate raised gold and bronze paste decoration on bone china, introduced about 1885 by George Anthony Marsden (active 1860–1900). In 1880 Marsden had sold Wedgwood his patent for the “Improvement in the Manufacture of Coloured or Ornamental Tiles, Bricks and Other Like Articles,” which, through the creation of textured patterns in low relief using clay slip and stencils, gave industrially produced tiles the appearance of having been hand made.8

During the last decade of the nineteenth century the factory became increasingly influenced by French art nouveau, and a number of freelance designers were engaged to create designs in the new style. One of these was Courtney Lindsay, a young artist about whom little is known. Lindsay ware, which was introduced about 1901 and is rare today, is characterized by the distinctive shapes designed by the artist and is decorated with colorful printed floral and naturalistic patterns (see Fig. 8).

By the early twentieth century Wedgwood moved the design of its art wares from the Etruria factory to the London studio of Alfred H. Powell and his wife Louise, a granddaughter of Lessore, who together began to create designs for Wedgwood around 1903. Influenced by the arts and crafts movement, the couple introduced a number of naturalistic styles that were easily adapted to industrial production at the factory (see Fig. 5). The Powells held exhibitions of their work at their studio together with other arts and crafts artists, thereby promoting not only the ideals of the movement, but also their own Wedgwood wares. They visited the Wedgwood factory often to purchase blanks and to teach pottery painters working there how to paint their designs, as well as those adapted from Wedgwood’s eighteenth-century pattern books, freehand.

The relationship between the Powells and the Wedgwood company lasted until well after World War I (see Fig. 9). Their influence was far reaching and, like Lessore and Allen, they helped to revive the tradition of hand-painted pottery at the factory, which in turn contributed to the restoration of Wedgwood’s reputation in the twentieth century. The tradition of hand-decorated pottery was later continued at the factory by Susannah “Daisy” Makeig-Jones (1881–1945), who was responsible for Wedgwood’s Fairyland lusterware, introduced in November 1915; and Millicent Taplin (1902–1980), who was trained by Alfred Powell and went on to manage the hand-painting department at the factory into the 1950s.

Throughout its history, Wedgwood has built its success on its innovative spirit and commitment to handcraft, manifested during the nineteenth century in the creation of new designs and a revival of hand-painted wares. Despite a period of decline during the early part of the century, by the early twentieth century the factory was once again a leading producer of modern pottery.

1 Wolf Mankowitz, Make Me an Offer (E. P. Dutton, New York, 1953).
2 The Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama is home to one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Wedgwood pottery in the world, comprised of the Dwight and Lucille Beeson Wedgwood Collection and the Buten Wedgwood Collection, which together number some ten thousand pieces. 
3 See Victoria Bergesen, Encyclopaedia of British Art Pottery, 1870–1920, ed. Geoffrey A. Godden (Barrie and Jenkins, London, 1991), pp. 9–18. 
4 After Josiah II retired, his son Josiah III (1795–1880) assumed control, but he himself retired only a year later in 1842. Thereafter Francis Wedgwood was left in sole charge of the factory. In 1843 Francis entered into partnership with John Boyle (d. 1845).  From 1846 to 1859 he was in partnership with Robert Brown.
5 The Wedgwood family occupied Etruria Hall from 1771 to 1819, at which time it was leased to George Magnus, an employee at the factory. In 1828 Francis Wedgwood and his family moved back into the house, remaining there until it was sold. 
6 For a comprehensive discussion of the history of the Wedgwood company in the nineteenth century, see Robin Reilly, Wedgwood (Stockton Press, New York, 1989), vol. 2.  
7
Art Journal Illustrated Catalogue of the International Exhibition, 1862 (London, 1863), p. 6, quoted in Reilly, Wedgwood, vol. 2, p. 129. 
8 See Maureen Batkin, Wedgwood Ceramics 1846–1959: A New Appraisal (Richard Dennis, London, 1982), chap. 7.

ANNE FORSCHLER-TARRASCH is the Marguerite Jones Harbert and John M. Harbert III Curator of Decorative Arts at the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama.

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[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi

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