Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Beauty of Doulton Burslem Ware

QUESTION: I recently came across several pieces of what a dealer called Doulton Burslem Ware at an antique show. I have never heard of this type of pottery, even though I have several pieces made by Royal Doulton in my collection. Were these pieces specially made? Did Doulton make them in a separate factory. Where did the name Burslem come from?

ANSWER: Over its history, Royal Doulton made a variety of types of ceramics, including pottery and porcelain. Its Burslem line featured its finest porcelains.

John Doulton began his working life as a potter’s apprentice at Dwight’s Pottery in Fulham, England. In 1815, he went into business for himself in Lambeth, partnering with a journeyman names John Watts and a widow named Martha Jones. After Martha Jones left the partnership in 1820, John Doulton changed the company’s  name to Doulton & Watts. The business specialized in making stoneware articles, including decorative bottles and salt glaze sewer pipes. The firm took the name Doulton & Company in 1853 after the retirement of John Watts.

His son, Henry, joined his father in 1835 at age 15. He quickly mastered the technique of throwing large vessels. Legend has it that he once made 15 3-gallon filter cases before breakfast. To celebrate his coming of age in 1841, Henry made and fired a 300-gallon chemical jar. His father was so proud of him he displayed it with a sign reading, "The largest stoneware vessel in the world."

Not only did Henry have skill in making pottery, but he was a big thinker and attuned to the artistic tastes of the public. By 1871, Henry Doulton launched a studio at the Lambeth pottery, offering work to designers and artists from the nearby Lambeth School of Art.  In 1877 Henry bought out Pinder, Bourne and Company, a pottery located in Burslem, Staffordshire, England. This placed him in the region known as The Potteries. Five years later he changed the name to Doulton and Company.

Henry fostered an artistic environment that encouraged individual expression, and  soon his workers made some of the most beautiful porcelains of the time. Not only did he hire women, but handicapped artists as well.

Henry was given the Albert Medal by the Royal Society of Arts in 1885 and was knighted in 1887 because of his contributions to the artistic life of England. In the late 1800s anyone who wanted to be in style owned Doulton items.

Sir Henry held off displaying the new Burslem porcelains at exhibitions until he was confident that he could show his competitors the best of his artists were cap-able of producing. At the Chicago Exhibition in 1893 he felt the public was ready for the new range. Large vases, including one which was 6 feet high, were modeled by Charles Noke' and painted by Charles Labarre, who had come to Doulton's from Sevres in France. Other items exhibited were floral painted dessert services and fish and game sets. The Doulton Works took seven of the highest awards, the most given to any ceramic firm.

Doulton's factory at Burslem produced a tremendous amount of tableware and beautifully decorated items, such as vases, ewers and plaques, all of high quality porcelain. It took the work of many skilled craftsman and women to accomplish this.

Notable artists such as Percy Curock, Daniel Dewsbury, Edward Raby, George White and, of course, Charles Noke experimented with glazes, including Changware, Chinese Jade, Sung, and Flambe'.

The Art Nouveau movement influenced many of Doulton’s artists in the late 19th century. In 1889, when Doulton recruited Charles Noke' from the Worcester factory as its chief modeler, many of his earliest pieces featured Oriental-style dragons in high relief. Vases and ewers had gilded dragon handles or molded dragons crawling up the sides. Dragons became an important part of Noke's work, especially when he began experimenting with the Chinese rouge flambe glazes in the early 1900s.

By this time Doulton had become known for its stoneware and ceramics, under the artistic direction of John Slater, who worked with figurines, vases, character jugs, and decorative pieces designed by the prolific Leslie Harradine. Doulton products came to the attention of the Royal family. In 1901 King Edward VII sold the Burslem factory the Royal Warrant, allowing the business to adopt new markings and a new name, Royal Doulton. The company added products during the first half of the 20th century while manufacturing fashionable and high-quality bone china.

Early Doulton artists frequently used nature as their theme, befitting the Art Nouveau style. Flowers were a very popular subject, usually done in muted colors outlined in gold. They also used animals, especially farm animals such as cows and goats, to decorate vases and other items, many with hand-painted landscapes.

In the first few years of the Burslem factory, some unique, very fragile pieces were made with colorful applied seashells or flowers, vines and leaves in an effort to duplicate some of the Amphora pieces made in Austria during that time. Some of these pieces are still in existence today and are eagerly sought by collectors.

During the late 19th century, when the Burslem craftsmen were producing their wares, many competing potters from the Worcester, Royal Bonn and Rudolstadt factories were also producing similar pieces. All of them employed the Spanish Ware technique—the  painting of very fine raised 22-karat gold outline traceries of flowers and leaves, combined with on-glaze enamel painting, often on an ivory or vellum ground. Many pieces had elaborate gilded scroll handles and three or four feet. Some rare pieces even had sections of reticulation.

Many of the cups and saucers from tea, coffee and chocolate services were very delicate in nature and also painted in muted colors using flowers as a theme. Much use of gold was used to decorate the cups and saucers, not only to outline the flowers, but the handle and trim were almost always done in gold. Doulton did a series called Blue Iris. The majority of the pieces in this line used blue flowers on a cream background, embellished by much gold tracery.

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