With over 30,000 individual items of artwork spread across the Minton company catalogue and only 0.6m2 of space in a single display case available, putting together a representative sample of the Art and Design material was always going to be a bit of a challenge! From this huge collection of items we decided to focus on some of the most famous artists and designers who worked with, or for, Minton, encompassing different periods, styles, influences and movements.
Using the item list from the original Art and Design case label, we’ve added extra information to explain our choices and reproduced it below. For those of you who might not get to see the display in person we’ve also included the introductory text and created a case layout diagram to give you an idea of how the items sit together.
Minton Archive: Art and Design
A unique feature of the collection is the extent, range and quality of the original art and design records it contains. Many great artists and designers worked with, or for, Minton. This vast archive then allows us to trace the subsequent production process all the way through to the marketing of the finished item.
1. Drawing by LV Solon, pre-1905
Léon Victor Solon was the son of Louis Solon – who perfected the pâte-sur-pâte technique at Minton – and grandson of Art Director Léon Arnoux. He made his own mark at Minton with his Art Nouveau and Seccessionist designs, helping to breathe new life into a company which was struggling to survive at the turn of the 20th century. We had originally picked out a beautiful ewer design to display here, but space was so tight in the case that we ultimately used the slightly smaller – though equally stunning – design you see here instead.[SD 1705/MS3550]
2. Selection of illustrations by H Stacy Marks, depicting the Seven Ages of Man, c.1870-75
Marks was a freelance designer who supplied designs to Minton’s short-lived Kensington Studio in London – including one for the Studio’s own trade card. Taken from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Marks actually illustrated nine Ages of Man as he drew alternatives for the Young Lover and the Old Man. It’s likely that these are tile designs but we’ve also seen a larger, rectangular version of at least one of these designs within the Art & Design folios.[SD 1705/MS1818]
3. Selection of designs from The Twelve Months series by A Boullemier, c.1880-90
Putti, cupids and cherubs were a common ornamentation in the Victorian era and Boullemier’s work reflects this trend – in the 1870s he painted a dessert service featuring 250(!) different cherub reserves for The Prince of Wales to use at Windsor. We wanted to use this particular set of Boullemier designs so that we could rotate the artwork on display, matching up the months depicted in the designs with the months in which they were being shown.[SD 1705/MS1696]
4. Design by Christopher Dresser, c.1870
There was no shortage of beautiful designs we could have used to represent Christopher Dresser in the display, but unfortunately most were too big to fit in the case! We chose this particular piece because its bright colours, fine line work and Scarab beetle motif are traits shared with many of the Dresser designs in the collection. Dresser’s relationship with Minton remains somewhat of a mystery, though it’s most likely he worked on a freelance basis.[SD 1705]
5. Design attributed to Reginald Haggar, c.1930
This colourful jungle scene, one of the few Haggar designs we could squeeze into our display case, represents the popular, modern designs of the 20th century. In 1931, when Haggar was Art Director at Minton, he commented on the then-current “tendency… towards greater simplicity”, arguing that “there is no reason why modern design, however simple it may be, should not conform to the standards of the finest traditional art.”[SD 1705]
6. Selection of designs for door finger plates by A. W. N. Pugin, c.1851
Although at first glance these designs may look unfinished, Pugin was often so busy that he intentionally left repeating elements in his designs blank. It was then up to other designers – in this case, Minton’s own – to interpret the rest of the design and, if necessary, finalise it ready for production. Design “S.3” is a great example of this element of Pugin’s work, containing all the essential information with just over a quarter of the design completed![SD 1705/MS1807]
“Welcome Home! A Celebration of the Minton Archive”, located in the first floor circular gallery at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, runs until Sunday 27th March 2016.