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MODERN]
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CERAMICS


Artistic Results.—While the great potteries of Europe have been employed in improving their methods of manufacture and in consolidating their knowledge on the technical and scientific side, so that they are able to produce pottery more perfect in shape, with a higher degree of finish and greater certainty of result than was ever known before, it cannot be said that the artistic results have been commensurate with the labour expended. Fortunately, however, the success of these important industrial concerns in stereotyping modern production has incited a considerable number of clever men, either potters or artists, to become artist-potters and producers of individual wares, often recalling the works of the great schools of bygone centuries. This movement, which to-day has its exponents in every European country as well as in the United States of America, originated in France between 1840 and 1850, when the formation of the earliest ceramic museums and the new-born interest in the old French faience led to various attempts at pottery-making by the old methods of handwork and rule of thumb. Avisseau of Tours (1845), Pull of Paris (1855), and Barbizet (1859) began to make pieces in the style of Palissy, and Ulysse of Blois (1863) revived painted faience in imitation of that of Nevers. Slowly a demand for painted pottery was created among collectors and amateurs, and in France and other countries artists began to dabble in the painting of pottery. In some cases the artist retained his freedom, painting pieces obtained from some pottery manufacturer, which he sold on his own account after they had been decorated and fired; or he became attached to a particular factory and his productions were sold by the potter; or the artist became an amateur potter, and either worked alone or encouraged other artists to co-operate with him.

It is impossible to do more than mention a few of the prominent men in each class, whose works were not only esteemed in their own day, but are also likely to be regarded always as among the distinguished productions of the 19th century. Emile Lessore and Chapelet were both painters who were attracted by the technique of the potter. For some time they bought specimens of pottery from a small manufacturer named Laurin at Bourg-la-Reine, and after a time they definitely forsook pictorial art for that of the potter. Lessore painted in underglaze colours in a delicate sketchy style figure-subjects, mostly adapted from old engravings. He worked for a short time at Sèvres, and then, like so many other French pottery artists of this period, he came to Minton’s in England, and finally entered into an engagement with the old firm of Josiah Wedgwood & Sons which continued almost to his death (1860–1876). On their fine cream-coloured earthenware he sketched many thousands of fanciful designs which had a great vogue in the ’seventies and ’eighties of the last century. Chapelet pursued a very different course. His first innovation was a method known as “Barbotine” or slip-painting, in which coloured clays were used “impasto,” often in considerable thickness, so that after the work had been fired and glazed it bore some resemblance to an oil painting. For a few years this style of decoration became the rage all over Europe, but it fell into contempt almost as rapidly as it had found favour, and is now only used for the decoration of common wares. Ultimately, Chapelet gave up painting and applied himself to the discovery of technical novelties. He was apparently the first European potter to produce flambé glazes after the manner of the Chinese, and a fine collection of these productions of his is preserved in the museum at Sèvres.

The greatest of all the French innovators was, however, Théodore Deck, who had been trained as a working potter and was led to forsake the management of an ordinary tile and pottery business in Paris to experiment on his own account. He started a little workshop in the Boulevard Montparnasse in Paris and rapidly gathered round him a number of young painters all eager to experiment in the magnificent colours which Deck with his passionate love of Persian and other oriental pottery could place at their disposal. Within a few years this venture was so successful that Deck was known all over the civilized world as a great potter, and his original creations, painted by men like Ranvier, Collin, Ehrmann, Anker and other artists, were readily purchased by the lovers of ceramic art in every country. The crown of his career came in 1887, when he was appointed director of the National Manufactory at Sèvres, for he was the only practical potter who had ever occupied that position; but he died in 1890 before he had been able to impress his personality on the work of Sèvres.

The same movement that was active in France found its exponents in other countries as well. In Italy and the south of France the last quarter of the 19th century witnessed a revival of Italian majolica and of lustre decoration. Prominent in this direction were the productions of Cantegalli of Florence and of the Massiers of Golfe-Juan near Cannes; while in England William de Morgan created an artistic sensation by his tiles and vases decorated with lustres, or with painted colours recalling those of the Persian and Syrian potters of the middle ages. This departure in England was, however, followed up by many manufacturers who were keenly alive to the possibilities of pottery colour, and Mr Bernard Moore, of Longton, Maw & Company of Jackfield, and Minton’s of Stoke-upon-Trent, produced much excellent work, in tiles and vases inspired from the same oriental sources.

Meantime, in America there had been growing up a manufacture of pottery after the approved methods, in Trenton, New Jersey; East Liverpool, Zanesville and Cincinnati (Ohio). To all these centres English workmen had been attracted, and earthenware after the current English styles was manufactured; but, as was the case in Europe, individual efforts were made to produce artistic pottery. The first and best known of these artistic departures was that of the Rookwood Pottery at Cincinnati, and again it was an amateur, Mrs Bellamy Storer, who founded an enterprise which has since produced some very original work. From 1880 to 1889 the work was mainly carried on at the expense of this lady, but since that date the enterprise has been self-supporting, and the Rookwood pottery has become known throughout the world.

The latter half of the 19th century also witnessed the development of new branches of pottery manufacture for sanitary purposes—and it is not too much to say that much of the improved sanitation of modern dwellings and towns has been rendered possible by the special appliances invented by potters for these purposes. In this direction the English potters undoubtedly led the way, and not only have their methods been imitated abroad, but English manufacturers have also established large works in Germany, France and the United States of America. Varieties, too, of hard-fired pottery, comprising earthenwares, stonewares and porcelains, have been invented for use in the chemical and electrical industries. But these belong to the great modern branch of pottery manufacture, not to pottery art. In the same way, the revived attention paid to the various forms of pottery for the interior and exterior of buildings belongs rather to the question of mural decoration than of pottery.

At the beginning of the 20th century we find England and Germany the leading pottery manufacturing countries; Germany excelling in the amount of its output, and England in the fineness and finish of its productions. France, in addition to the National Manufactory at Sèvres, as much as ever divorced from commerce, has its porcelain industry at Limoges and large manufactories of tiles and earthenware in many departments; while there are also a number of artist potters like Lachenal, Dalpayrat, Delaherche and Taxile Doat who make purely artistic pottery in hard-fired stonewares (grès) and porcelain, while the production of decorative stonewares for building purposes has been developed by such firms as Bigot, Boulanger and E. Müller. A great development has also taken place in the production of decorative pottery and tiles in Holland. The famous Delft works, besides producing quantities of painted blue and white earthenware (made in the English and not in the old Dutch fashion), has been experimenting largely in the development of crystalline and opalescent glazes and in lustres, while the Rozenburg factory at the Hague and a factory at Puramerende, near Amsterdam, have made some distinctive but rather bizarre painted pottery and porcelain. The success of the Royal Copenhagen factory has