12 July 2014 by Laura
284 years ago today the English potter Josiah Wedgwood was born. Founder of the Wedgwood company, he become one of the most influential ceramic manufacturers in the world and earned the title ‘The Father of English Potters’.
Decorative Arts curator, Alyson Pollard tells us more about the Lady Lever’s Wedgwood collection and what made this potter so significant:
If you were asked to name one of the most brilliant men of the eighteenth century you probably would not think of the potter, Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795). However, Wedgwood was a key figure in the 18th century and a true innovator and forward thinker. He made his fortune through the production of cream coloured earthenware for everyday use, which he called ‘useful ware’.
But, it was Wedgwood’s genius at identifying fashionable trends and producing original new decorative types of pottery, which he called ‘ornamental ware’, that sets him apart from other potters of the time. He recognised the allure of shopping and his London showroom made shopping a delightful experience for the fashionable middle and upper classes. Until then, shopping had not necessarily been considered a pleasant experience or a leisure activity.
‘Ornamental ware’ is Wedgwood’s own term used to describe this new decorative pottery which he produced, in partnership with Liverpool merchant Thomas Bentley, at his factory near Stoke-on-Trent. One of the finest collections of ornamental ware in the world is held at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, featuring basalt, terracotta stoneware, caneware and a large number of jasperware pieces.
The collection contains several individual pieces which are outstanding, including two copies of the celebrated Portland Vase, of which only 35 were known to have been made in 1790. There are also, three very rare jasperware fireplaces dating from the 1780s, only one other similar example is known to have survived. But perhaps the most impressive pieces are four unique and beautifully painted enamelled Wedgwood plaques by George Stubbs, one a self portrait. These are now regarded as the most important 18th Century works in the Lady Lever Art Gallery.
Explore the stunning Wedgewood collection in our online catalogue.
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