the artistic point of view with the masterpieces of oriental pottery.
Everything was carried out on the grand scale, and once again the influence of Sèvres became paramount in Europe, and its styles of painting and decoration were eagerly followed from 1830 to 1870 by all those European potters who were attempting to make anything beyond useful domestic wares. As an instance of its aims in the period between 1830 and 1850, large sums were spent in the production of great slabs of porcelain many feet in area; on which were painted copies of some of the famous portraits and other pictorial masterpieces in the galleries of the Louvre. A number of these are preserved in the museum at Sèvres, and must always excite admiration and even wonder at their technical accomplishment.
The most noticeable invention of Sèvres in the middle part of the 19th century was the pâte sur pâte decoration in which porcelain clays of various colours are used as the artist’s medium. The idea appears to have been adopted from an old Chinese vase by Robert, the chief painter, and at the London International Exhibition of 1862 some small cups decorated in this method, by Gely, were first shown. The most successful work in this style was, however, that produced by M. Solon, who worked at Sèvres until 1870. In that year he came to England and was employed at Minton’s, where for about thirty-five years he continued this method of work, one of the few artistic and beautiful styles of pottery decoration of the 19th century. As practised by M. Solon the pâte sur pâte decoration took the form of paintings of figure subjects or dainty ornamental designs in white slip on a coloured porcelain ground of green, blue, dark-grey or black. On such grounds a thin wash of the slip gives a translucent film, so that by washing on or building up successive layers of slip, sharpening the drawing with modelling tools, or softening or rounding the figure with a wet brush, the most delicate gradations of tint can be obtained, from the brilliant white of the slip to the full depth of the ground. This method was rapidly adopted by all the principal European factories, though nowhere was it carried to such perfection as at Sèvres and at Minton’s. M. Taxile Doat has executed many extraordinary pieces in this style of decoration at Sèvres, and in the British Museum there is a large vase of his, presented by the French government at the beginning of the present century. One great feature of French porcelain manufacture during the 19th century was the development of the industry at Limoges and the neighbouring district of central France. Limoges was a small centre of porcelain production in the period between 1780 and 1850, but after the latter date it rapidly developed into a pottery centre second only in importance to that of the Potteries district in England. We can do no more than mention this fact, because, for the most part, the activities of Limoges have been devoted to the production of pottery commercially, rather than pottery as an art.
The Franco-German War proved a disaster for Sèvres, and all work came to a standstill for a time. The existing manufactory, which was almost completed before the outbreak of the war, was opened by Marshal MacMahon in 1876, but for many years the work was continued under great discouragement. Between 1879 and 1889 attention was paid to the study and imitation of old Chinese methods, and this resulted in the reproduction of many of those Chinese glazes which had hitherto been the despair of European potters.
At the Paris Exhibition of 1900 the display made by Sèvres was perhaps the most notable feature of the magnificent collection of ceramics gathered there. The collection included many varieties of porcelain, both hard and soft paste, decorated in all the current styles of the period; under-glaze painting, on-glaze painting, flambé glazes and crystalline glazes, but most beautiful of all were the magnificent groups of “biscuit” figures designed as table garnitures by some of the best French sculptors of the time.
English Progress.—The demand for elaborate specimens of painted porcelain was at its height throughout Europe between 1851 and 1880, and this demand was undoubtedly fostered by the series of international exhibitions held during that period, when every European pottery works of note produced large and costly specimens of porcelain or earthenware, smothered with painting and gilding. Every famous manufactory produced something beyond the ordinary, but undoubtedly the first of European factories during this period was that of Messrs Minton at Stoke-upon-Trent. M. Leon Arnoux, a descendant of the Arnoux’s of Apt, an old family of French potters, was at this time the technical and artistic director of Messrs Minton’s works, and he was the only pottery director during the 19th century who could in any sense be compared with M. Brongniart of Sèvres. M. Arnoux combined in a remarkable degree artistic with technical skill, and under his management the works of Messrs Minton became the greatest centre of ceramic art in Europe. Skilful modellers, like Jeannest, Carriere-Belleuse, and Protat, and pottery painters such as A. Boullemier, Moussill, E. Lessore and L. Solon were engaged at this factory and produced many of the most characteristic European decorations of the middle of the 19th century.
To this period, too, we must refer another English invention, that of a special porcelain known as “Parian.” This in its finest expression was a “biscuit” porcelain used for the production of statuettes and groups rivalling the finest 18th century “biscuit” figures of Sèvres and Derby. It seems probable that this Parian was first made at the works of Copeland and Garratt, at Stoke-upon-Trent; but it was immediately adopted at Minton’s, Wedgwood’s, and at Worcester; and each of these firms used it in a distinctive way. Glazed Parian was also manufactured at the Belleek Porcelain Works in Ireland (the only Irish porcelain works of any note), and later its manufacture was developed by the Worcester Royal Porcelain Company, Moore Brothers of Longton, and other English manufacturers until it became an important branch of the English porcelain made in the period under review.
Japanese Influence.—At the Paris Exhibition of 1867 the great collection of the applied arts of Japan took Europe by storm, and there was an immediate outbreak of adaptations of Japanese art in Europe once more; not as in the 18th century, when the old Japanese patterns were copied or frankly imitated, but a European-Japanese style arose, based on the methods and ideas of the great Japanese painters and draughtsmen, the workers in metal, in iron, in lacquer and in silk. In England the Worcester Royal Porcelain Company produced a series of elaborate and skilful pieces inspired from this source, which for perfect and minute execution must be ranked before all other European works of their kind.
The most admirable result of this revived interest in Japanese art was, however, developed at the Royal Copenhagen works, the productions of which are not only famous all over the world, but have set a new style in porcelain decoration which is being followed at most of the continental factories. By the use of the pure Swedish felspar and quartz and the finest china clays from Germany or Cornwall a material of excellent quality is prepared, and on this naturalistic paintings of birds, fishes, animals and water or northern landscapes and figure subjects are painted in delicate under-glaze blues, greys and greens. The Royal Copenhagen works has also produced a profusion of skilfully modelled animals, birds and fishes, either in pure white, or delicately tinted after nature, with the same under-glaze colours.
Not only have Berlin, Sèvres and other European factories adopted the modern Copenhagen style of decoration, but the Japanese are now imitating these skilful productions which were originally inspired by their own early work.
Stonewares.—Mention must be made of the revival of the manufacture of artistic stonewares by Doultons of Lambeth, and Villeroy and Boch, the great German potters. Doultons, besides reviving the older forms of English stoneware, made some entirely new departures, and their pieces with designs etched in the clay are admirable examples of the right use of a refractory material. Villeroy and Boch reproduced the old Rhenish stonewares, and many interesting new departures in addition, but mostly in German forms that have not commended the wares to other nations.