Christopher Dresser (English, 1834-1904) Manufactured by Watcombe Terracotta Clay Company (Torquay, Devon, England, established 1867) Pitcher, designed 1870-75; produced by Watcombe of Torquay. Terracotta or red stoneware, gilding 7 1/8 × 5 1/2 × 5 1/4 in. (18.1 × 13.97 × 13.34 cm) . Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Daniel Morris and Denis Gallion M1991.323
In 1898, the artists periodical The Studio called Christopher Dresser “perhaps the greatest of commercial designers imposing his fantasy and invention upon the ordinary output of British industry.” This seems an appropriate description for an Englishman who was interested in art but first trained in botany, and then found inspiration for his designs both in the ancient past and traditions of Japan.
Looking at two of Dresser’s designs in the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum–a pitcher produced by the Watcombe Terracotta Clay Company and a claret jug produced by Hulkin & Heath–you can see how he applied his own personal motto to his work: truth, beauty, power. The sleek and angular vessels lack the decoration that most people associate with the Victorian period, which would have been at its height in the 1870’s. They look like something from the 20th century!
It may surprise you then, that Dresser was also known for his interests in flat patterning.
Meissen Porcelain Manufactory (Dresden, Germany, established 1710), Two-Handled Urn, 1814-60. Porcelain with hand-painted overglaze decoration and gilding. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the René von Schleinitz Foundation, M1962.248. Photo credit: John R. Glembin
Last week, we looked an amazing example of large-scale Meissen porcelain sculpture. This time, we’ll look at another beautiful work of Meissen, this two-handled urn.
This sizable object has a great presence (it’s about a foot tall). What immediately draws attention is the beautifully painted decoration. The base and rim are painted in a Renaissance revival-style panel with purple-pink and light olive green tones highlighted with the white of the porcelain and shiny gilding. And then there is the main frieze, which shows an ancient Greek myth called the Calydonian Boar Hunt. Continue reading
G.H. van, Jr. Hengel (Rotterdam, Holland, active 18th century). Chandelier, 1710-30. Brass, cast iron, 42 1/2 × 36 3/4 in. (107.95 × 93.35 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Friends of Art, M1974.232 Photo credit: P. Richard Eells
This fantastic chandelier is currently on view in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s east galleria. It hangs there to represent the European collections in our reinstallation display–and I think that is does a great job!
Dating to the early 18th century, the chandelier is typically Dutch in form. The design is a perfect example of baroque restraint, from its curved arms, a baluster-shaped shaft, and the balancing ball with finial. Overall, it is graceful and well-proportioned—it was clearly made by a master metalworker. The glossy dark patina is also well-done and in great condition. Continue reading
Meissen Porcelain Manufactory (Dresden, Germany, established 1710). Augustus III, King of Poland, 18th century. Glazed porcelain, with polychrome overglaze decoration, and gilding, 30 × 16 1/2 × 13 1/4 in. (76.2 × 41.91 × 33.66 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the René von Schleinitz Foundation, M1962.364. Photo credit: John R. Glembin
Believe it or not, this imposing sculpture is made out of a material that we usually associate with teacups and figurines for our end tables. That’s right–this two-and-a-half feet tall man is made out of porcelain!
But it’s not just any porcelain. It’s porcelain made at the factory in Meissen, Germany. You may remember Meissen as one of the most important names in European porcelain production from my series on German drinking vessels.
Just to recap, Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, was obsessed with porcelain and purchased huge amounts of Chinese and Japanese examples for his palaces in Dresden. But he, like so many rulers in Europe, wanted to be able to make what was dubbed as “white gold” for himself.
George Vicat Cole (English, 1833–1893), At Arundel, Sussex, 1887. Oil on canvas, 32 1/2 × 52 1/16 in. (82.55 × 132.24 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Layton Art Collection, Gift of J.M. Durand. L1888.17 Photo credit: John R. Glembin
For those you who where able to see the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Salon-style hang in Gallery 10 a couple of years ago, this painting may look familiar. This is because it is a Layton Art Collection painting that was brought out of storage for that display.
Happily, a number of paintings from that special installation will be included in the European galleries once we reopen, and we anticipate that this painting will be one of them!