Histories of UK potters and pottery manufacturers

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Last updated: 1st August 2011

ART NOUVEAU

‘Art Nouveau’ encompasses an important, although short-lived, style that dominated the decorative arts and to a lesser extent architecture at the end of the 19th Century and into the early years of the 20th Century.  Art Nouveau is characterised by the use of forms from the natural world, particularly botanical motifs, interpreted with stylized, sinuous flowing lines.

The name Art Nouveau comes from the gallery L’Art Nouveau opened in Paris in 1895 by Seigfreid Bing, however, the origins of the style date back to the 1880 and the growing interest in Japan and Japanese arts amongst European artists and craftsmen circles.  The cover plate for the book Wren’s City Churches drawn by Arthur McMurdo in 1883 is often quoted as the first appearance of the art nouveau style in print.  Artists James Whistler and Aubrey Beardsley associated with the aesthetic movement were also important in art nouveau.

Where aestheticism centred on fine arts and literature, the art nouveau style which replaced it was widely practiced in the decorative arts including architecture, metalwork, glassware and ceramics.  Art nouveau influences impacted on ceramics through both form and surface decoration.  The sinuous forms could be produced in clay on both the potter’s wheel and in slip-cast forms.  Mintons produced its ‘Secessionist Ware’ in the early 20th Century, the name derived from the Vienna Secession movement associated with the broader art nouveau style.

Art Nouveau’s stylized botanical motifs were well suited to the decoration of everyday ceramics and repeat patterns of stylized flowers were common.  

In the United Kingdom, art nouveau style is associated with the architectural work, furniture and decorative arts (but not ceramics) produced by Charles Rennie McIntosh and his Glasgow school.  George Logan a member of the Glasgow school is believed to have prepared designs for the Peacock Art Pottery of E. Brain & Son.

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Tea cup, saucer and plate decorated with a repeat stylised floral motif typical of Art Nouveau decoration on porcelain. Pattern E 3837.

Doulton & Co. Ltd, Burslem, Circa 1907.

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Art Nouveau-style decoration on middle-market bone china. The decoration lacks the sophistication of the Doulton example.

E. Hughes & Co., Fenton, Circa 1910.

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A ‘Peacock Pottery’ coffee can or small teacup with a simple floral motif. Possibly designed by George Logan, a Scottish designer influenced by the work of Charles Rennie MacIntosh.

E. Brain & Co. Fenton, Circa 1910.