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About Nic Saintey
Nic Saintey is a director and a specialist in ceramics. His effervescent nature and wide experience has seen him regularly appear as an expert on the BBC's Bargain Hunt and Flog It programmes
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The material published in this web log is for general purposes only. It does not constitute nor is it intended to represent professional advice. You should always seek specific professional advice in relation to particular issues. The information in this web log is provided "as is" with no warranties and confers no rights. The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions.

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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How many times as a ceramics auctioneer have I seen a rare pot only to turn it over and with a long sigh say ‘Ah if only it wasn’t damaged’. The cynics amongst you probably believe it is a turn of phrase used to diminish expectation at auction when faced with some small fault; I can assure you it’s not.

A second series Urbato Ware vase for Wileman & Co (EX81)

People who work with pots tend to be passionate about them so whilst working on the Rhead Cronin Collection I have been genuinely saddened when I have come across a flawed pot. However, at least one is comforted that these casualties can still tell a story as despite being imperfect they were retained by the owner.

 a wedgwood pate sur pate decorated vase, is this by a young frederick rhead

A Wedgwood pate sur pate decorated vase, is this by a young Frederick Rhead (EX81)

When faced with the Urbato Ware moon flask, designed by Frederick Rhead whilst at Wileman & Co, the desire to retain it is understandable, as although cracked it does ‘look’ perfect. There is also a Wedgwood vase painfully minus its neck, ‘Ah if only…’, that has pate sur pate panels on blue alternating with olive ground panels with stylised foliage. It raises the possibility that, although unsigned, this was made by Frederick circa 1877-87, why else would the family wish to retain it?

 a naturalistic woods elers ware vase by frederick rhead

A naturalistic Woods Elers Ware vase by Frederick Rhead (EX81)

Next there is another flawed piece of Elers Ware, a Wood & Sons range, undoubtedly the work of Frederick Rhead. Traditionally Elers Ware pieces have been more Art Nouveau and spartan in their handling whilst this small vase has a far more busy and naturalistic scheme. Has anyone seen this style of decoration on Elers Ware before?

 a marked woods & sons formosa pattern vase and an unmarked pate sur pate vase

A marked Woods & Sons Formosa pattern vase and an unmarked pate sur pate vase (EX81)

However, what intrigues me the most is a critically damaged and unmarked vase. The shape obviously Woods & Sons and cannot be anything other than the work of Frederick Rhead. Shortly after starting with them he was engaged to improve their range of fancy wares, hence the emergence of the Elers and Trellis patterns, but his decorative urges led him to experiment with pate sur pate ‘at prices well within reach of the average man’ to quote Bernard Bumpus.

 detail of the lobster pattern vase for woods by frederick rhead

Detail of the lobster pattern vase for Woods by Frederick Rhead (EX81)

The early pate sur pate was really just tubelining in disguise, but looking at this vase he did use the pate sur pate technique and by the look of these rather sumptuous lobsters rather successfully too. I guess that it never really went into full production as it was too labour intensive and costly. Other examples do exist as in recent conversation with Peter Mason it seems he may have unearthed evidence of another example.

 

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013 10:40:19 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Wednesday, December 04, 2013

It is always satisfying when one can add to the sum total of knowledge about a particular subject it makes the job all the more rewarding. So it is pleasing that the Rhead Cronin Collection has provided some physical confirmation that Adolphine (Dollie) Rhead covered for her sister Charlotte Rhead at Burgess & Leigh when she went on holiday in 1928 to visit her brothers, Frederick Hurten Rhead and Louis Rhead, in America.

dollie rhead's signature on a burleigh ware sandwich set

Dollie Rhead's signature on a Burleigh Ware sandwich set (EX81)

It was always known that Dollie Rhead stood in for her sister, but if I’m correct, the image below is the first time a signed and dated piece from this period has been seen. What makes this discovery even more exciting is that the pattern has not been previously recorded and rather raises the question that Dollie ‘may’ actually have designed pieces rather than being solely a hired hand. Furthermore, the tubelining is proficiently undertaken which, when you bear in mind that she had left the potteries to pursue a career in nursing some eighteen years earlier, is no mean feat. For those of you that are interested a more in depth discussion of the piece then go to the blog at www.rheadpottery.com

 a burleigh ware sandwich set in a previously unrecorded pattern

A Burleigh Ware sandwich set in a previously unrecorded pattern (EX81)

The collection also contains a number of other previously unseen painted patterns which includes a rather curious bowl and matching plate with an Isnik inspired design of tulips and stylised leaves in black on a turquoise ground. Although marked enigmatically ‘E Fired’ to the underside of the plate it is almost certainly the work of Frederick Alfred Rhead for Bursley Ltd, as he is attributed with other patterns in the same idiom namely Bagdad, Benares and Arabian. One can only guess that these pieces never got past the prototype stage.

 is this a rejected frederick alfred rhead pottery prototype for bursley ltd?

Is this a rejected Frederick Alfred Rhead pottery prototype for Bursley Ltd? (EX81)

There is, however, no doubt that the following plate is by Frederick Alfred Rhead, as it bears his initials to the underside, and looks to be a direct copy of an Isnik pottery plate painted with typical saz leaf, stylised blooms and pomegranate within a wave scroll border. Whilst I don’t believe this was intended as a prototype several elements of it (the saz leaves, the leafy fronds at the base, the pink florets and the border scheme) appear in the Burgess & Leigh Persian pattern 4013.

a direct copy of an isnik dish painted by frederick alfred rhead used as inspiration for other pieces.

A direct copy of an Isnik dish painted by Frederick Alfred Rhead used as
inspiration for other pieces. (FS21)

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Wednesday, December 04, 2013 11:29:44 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, December 02, 2013

Original studies, sketches or notes that predate a finished work can often add colour and depth to an object or artwork. It can also provide a privileged insight into the creator’s thoughts. The Rhead Cronin Collection does allow such insight, but unusually it is into a whole family who it seems were particularly close.

 tennyson's idylls of the king and a signed charlotte rhead plaque

 Tennyson's Idylls of the King and a signed Charlotte Rhead plaque (FS21)

Certainly at one time, four of it’s members Frederick Alfred Rhead, Frederick Hurten Rhead, Charlotte Rhead and Dollie Rhead were all working under one roof for Wileman & Co and there are many times when two family members were working for the same company at the same time. Hardly surprising then to see the family both worked together and borrowed ideas and inspiration from each other. Three of the Rhead brothers George, Louis and Frederick provided the illustrations for an 1898 edition of Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress and the former pair also illustrated a version of Tennyson’ Idylls of the King in the same year. As you can see from the attached image, Charlotte in turn used one of the engravings of Elaine with the shield of Lancelot as inspiration for a tubelined pottery plaque of her own.

 a signed and dated charlotte rhead plaque and the source watercolour

A signed and dated Charlotte Rhead plaque and the source watercolour (FS21)

What is more intriguing is the watercolour of a bungalow, which with some artistic licence, has been used by Charlotte Rhead for another plaque, which she has signed and dated 1910 on the reverse. It raises a number of questions, was it family home and perhaps given as a gift? It may have been a commission but that seems unlikely.

 a charlotte rhead plaque tubelined with a baby

A Charlotte Rhead plaque tubelined with a baby (FS21)

The same questions could also be asked of the sensitively rendered portrait of a baby tubelined by Charlotte onto another plaque. It has all the look of a family photograph although I can’t get the ridiculous thought out of my head of Charlotte bag in one hand and blank tile in the other ‘tubelining from life’ She was certainly known to have used her pets as inspiration so I really believe that this infant must be related to her.

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Monday, December 02, 2013 9:06:03 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Thursday, November 28, 2013

In my line of business, I have heard the story ‘Granny was given it personally by Queen Victoria’ countless times and equally have drawn an incredulous face when I say ‘Can you prove it’. Of course, everyone wants their story to ring true, because previous or auspicious ownership can add value to an object. In short we are talking about provenance. The Rhead-Cronin Collection has provenance as good as it comes - the late Richard Harry Rhead-Cronin was the son of Marie Rhead, the eldest daughter of Frederick Alfred Rhead and sister of Frederick Hurten Rhead, Charlotte Rhead and Adolphine Rhead. So it means that the drawings, paintings and ceramics he accumulated were likely either to be gifted or retained within the family by intent.

 frederick alfred rhead an oil on board depicting a scene from the rubiayat of omar khayyam

Frederick Alfred Rhead an oil on board depicting 
a scene from the Rubiayat of Omar Khayyam (FS21)

One can only surmise why? There could be any number of reasons, personal pride in the work might be one, or maybe even the opposite…not sure about that one - lets put that back in a dark cupboard! They could be left over items from a spot of freelancing, private work on blanks removed from the factory or even personalised gifts passed within the family.

 frederick alfred rhead a pate sur pate vase depicting a scene from the rubiayat of omar khayyam

Frederick Alfred Rhead a pate sur pate vase depicting 
a scene from the Rubiayat of Omar Khayyam (FS21)

For me, the most interesting items are those accompanied by the original artwork things that tell a story of work in progress such as the oil on board painted by Frederick Alfred Rhead that appears with several adjustments in stunning pate sur pate on what looks to be a Minton blank. It depicts a line from verse forty eight of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. ‘And when the angel with his darker draught draws up to thee, take that and do not shrink’. One wonders whether the painting was actually intended as a working study for the vase or whether he sought inspiration from it at some later point. In transition from board to porcelain the colour of the cloak has changed, almost certainly to accommodate the limitations of the pate sur pate technique which is most effective in white and also it seems our angel has changed sex.

 frederick alfred rhead a source watercolour and a tubelined plaque

Frederick Alfred Rhead a source watercolour and a tubelined plaque (FS21)

Another watercolour by Frederick seems far more straightforward as an almost direct template that was subsequently used as a tile design although one wonders whether it was he or Charlotte that actually undertook the tubelining for it. I am pretty sure it is her work, but what do you think?

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Thursday, November 28, 2013 11:06:59 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Frederick Alfred Rhead’s marriage to Adolphine, the daughter of Charles Frederick Hurten (a flower painter latterly employed by Copeland) produced six offspring four of whom ensured that the Rhead dynasty remained active in the ceramics industry for a further generation.

The eldest Frederick Hurten Rhead (1880-1932) was apprenticed to his father at the Brownfield Guild Pottery moving with him when he left for Wileman & Co when at the age of nineteen, in 1899, he was appointed art director at Wardle & Co. Within three years, however, he had left for America working for a series of concerns in the following decade or so that included the Avon Pottery, Roseville and the American Encaustic Tile Company as well as a number of teaching posts and setting up his own pottery.

 an early example of frederick hurten rhead's work for wardle & co.

An early example of Frederick Hurten Rhead's work for Wardle & Co. (FS21)

Harry Rhead (1881-1950) had a journey very much in his brother’s footsteps as he also went to Brownfield’s under his father, followed him to Wileman & Co and took over at Wardle & Co when his elder sibling emigrated only to do the same and take over at Roseville from 1908-1917 before going his own way in America setting up his own tile business in 1923.

 a charlotte rhead for bursley ware pottery ewer circa 1922

A Charlotte Rhead for Bursley Ware pottery ewer circa 1922  (EX81)

Charlotte (Lottie) Rhead (1885-1947) really had no choice about her career with both her brothers immersed in the industry and her father bringing home his work. From an early age, she and her younger sister Adolphine (Dollie) Rhead (1888-1981) were introduced to tubelining.

In 1903, at the age of sixteen, she and her sister were competent enough to join her elder brother and father at Wileman & Co. When he left he found the girls places at Keeling & Co, but as they didn’t use tubelining, this proved to be a stopgap until they joined the short lived Barker Rhead & Co concern. When this collapsed in 1910, Dollie Rhead trained as a midwife (although never forgot her tubelining skills) and Lottie Rhead continued decorating tiles for T & R Boote before joining her father in 1912 at Wood & Co (Bursley Ware). She finally got her independent break as a designer for Burgess & Leigh (Burleigh) in 1926, only to leave left four years later to fulfil a similar post at AG Richardson (Crown Ducal) until 1941 where she completed her career with HJ Woods.

 a houseproud frederick alfred rhead and his wife adolphine

 A houseproud Frederick Alfred Rhead and his wife Adolphine

By way of adding a little ‘colour’ to the story, I have also added a black and white photograph of Frederick Alfred Rhead and his wife Adolphine outside a chalet bungalow named Crosby – it isn’t mentioned as one of the six properties the family inhabited in either of Bernard Bumpus’ books, does anybody know where it is?

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013 9:02:12 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Sunday, November 24, 2013

Having mentioned the Rhead family in my last blog, I thought I ought to add some bite sized detail of the principle family members starting with George Woolliscroft Rhead (1832-1908). He was part of a family associated with the pottery industry for many years, primarily remembered as an artist, illustrator and particularly an art teacher up until 1900, but was employed as a gilder by Minton. Three of his offspring George Woolliscroft Rhead Junior, Frederick Alfred Rhead and Louis Rhead also started out with Minton.

 a minton charger painted by george woolliscroft jnr

A Minton charger painted by George Woolliscroft jnr

The younger George Woolliscroft Rhead (1854-1920) served his time under WS Coleman, latterly at the Kensington Gore Studios, got a scholarship to study art and etching in London, gaining a teaching certificate along the way. Eventually teaching in London and also undertaking freelance painting and etching for Doulton and Wedgwood.

 a sumptious plaque attributed to louis rhead

A sumptious plaque attributed to Louis Rhead

Frederick Alfred Rhead (1856-1933) was perhaps the most dynamic. He studied under his father then at the age of thirteen he was apprenticed to Louis Solon, widely regarded as the master of the pate sur pate technique. In 1878, he was employed by Wedgwood, by 1887 he spent a brief period with James Gildea, a year later whilst at  EJD Bodley he was responsible for executing the Gladstone Vase (see my last blog). Shortly after this he was at Brownfield’s until 1897 before joining Wileman & Co as art director until 1905. Thereafter, he was freelance for three years before entering into the partnership of Barker Rhead & Co (Atlas Tile Works), which failed two years later in 1910 causing his family some considerable hardship, after which he decamped to America. However, in less than a year he returned taking up a post with Wood & Sons from 1912-27.

 a frederick alfred rhead pate sur pate plaque depicting the flatterers net from bunyans pilgrim's progress

A Frederick Alfred Rhead pate sur pate plaque depicting the Flatterers Net from Bunyans Pilgrim's Progress

Three years before joining Minton, in 1873, as a painter Louis Rhead (1858-1926) studied figure drawing in Paris. He joined his brother at Wedgwood in 1878, where he exhibited at the Paris Exhibition to acclaim. He continued his art education in London freelancing for Wedgwood until he emigrated to America in 1883 where he concentrated primarily on his artwork and book illustration.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013 8:02:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Friday, November 22, 2013

Every now and then a good job comes along, one that really engages your attention, something that has interesting pieces with a story to tell, an opportunity to research something novel, every day a new connection or discovery. Well for me the last two weeks has been just like that having been instructed to deal with the estate of the late Richard Harry Rhead-Cronin and prepare it for sale here in Exeter.

 a typical tubelined tile by charlotte rhead

A typical tubelined tile by Charlotte Rhead (EX81)

Anybody with a passing interest in ceramics will certainly be aware of the name Rhead and most probably with Charlotte Rhead who unfairly is seen as something of a princess when compared the queen-like Art Deco status of Clarice Cliff or Susie Cooper.

 charlotte rhead (standing) and her youngest sister adolphine rhead in playful mood

Charlotte Rhead (standing) and her youngest sister Adolphine Rhead in playful mood

Charlotte Rhead was part of a third generation of Rheads, a potting dynasty that started with George Woolliscroft Rhead, included four of his eleven children George Woolliscroft Rhead Jnr, Frederick Alfred Rhead, Louis Rhead and Fanny Rhead. It continued with four of Frederick Alfred’s six children Frederick Hurten Rhead, Harry Rhead, Marie Rhead, Charlotte Rhead, Katherine Rhead and Adolphine Rhead. They all worked closely with the Staffordshire (and also American) ceramics industry as well being talented painters and illustrators.

 frederick rhead

Frederick Rhead

Their contribution is sizeable having worked for 20-30 different concerns, including their own. Despite their significance, it is curious that there have only been two published works, both by Bernard Bumpus, one a monograph to Charlotte Rhead, the second an extended version of the original which included other family members.

 frederick alfred rhead's artwork for the gladstone vase executed for ejd bodley

Frederick Alfred Rhead's artwork for the Gladstone vase executed for EJD Bodley (FS21)

I am excited about the next few weeks running up to the sales scheduled for 17th December 2013 and 21st/22nd January 2014 and whilst there are greater scholars than me out there I hope that by sharing the experience and by focussing on pieces from the Rhead-Cronin Collection we all might become a little more familiar with this talented family.

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Friday, November 22, 2013 3:44:28 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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Review Entries for Day Monday, April 22, 2013

When it comes to decorating porcelain plaques the Germans are at the forefront and particularly those at the KPM (Konigliche Porzellan Manufactur) manufactory in Berlin whose work was considered superior even to that at Meissen. The golden years were undoubtedly from 1840 through to around 1900.

 a k.p.m. berlin plaque of the young christ after hofmann circa 1890 - 1900

A KPM Berlin plaque of the Young Christ after Hofmann circa 1890 - 1900 (FS14/614)

The most popular plaques were painted with religious or mythological subject matter inhabited with coquettish maids or the scantily clad, but topographical scenes and faithful copies of existing paintings also featured. Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt and Guido Reni were amongst those most commonly mimicked. Whilst only copies, they were of exceptional quality – you might think it is hard putting a brush to canvas, but I guess painting on a plaque and seeing how it fares in the kiln is perhaps more unpredictable. Once completed, a porcelain plaque has the benefit of retaining all the brightness of colour it had at conception and unlike paper or canvas it will not fade.

 a french porcelain plaque halt during a hunt after watteau, mid 19th century

A French porcelain plaque Halt during a Hunt after Watteau, mid 19th century (FS18/558)

Painting on porcelain was also undertaken in France and in Britain to a lesser degree. Illustrated is a mid 19th century plaque which with a little artistic licence is a copy of a 1720 work by Jean Antione Watteau entitled Halt during a Hunt, which is currently part of the Wallace Collection. However, my job is all about attention to detail, so I noticed that the rifles depicted were percussion rifles (not flintlocks) which weren’t invented in 1720. More concerning is that the pastoral idyll is broken by the fact that all of the rifles are not only primed ready to fire, but are in the hands of children, was there no Health and Safety?

detail of a french porcelain plaque halt during a hunt after watteau

Armed with a weapon from the future (FS18/558)

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Monday, April 22, 2013 1:14:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #
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