Saturday, January 2, 2010

Australian pottery of the 19th & early 20th century

In December 2009 the Museums Australia (Victoria) end of year function was held at Roy Morgan Research, 401 Collins Street. The highlight of the evening was Gary Morgan describing his passion for collecting Australian art, particularly pottery and allowing those present to view some of the treasures in the collection. During the talk Gary Morgan talked about John Percival's Angels which I knew well from having worked at the Hargrave Library, Monash University, where a mural of angels adorns one wall. He also mentioned Ola Cohn, creator of the Fairies' Tree in the Fitzroy Gardens and William Ricketts but most of the other names I did not recognise. I realised that I need to know more about Australian pottery. It was time to start investigating the library collection.

Marjorie Graham, in her book, Australian pottery of the 19th & early 20th century, looks at the development of pottery in each of the states and photographs showing examples of the pottery are provided. The emphasis in the book is on domestic pottery - the Victorian chapter concentrating on Bendigo Pottery - but mention is made of the the artistic potters starting with Merric Boyd and other members of the Boyd family. Chapter 7 concentrates on potteries from the 1920s with Art Decco and Art Moderne influences resulting in more interesting Australian designs featuring Australian fauna and flora. Australiana designs had been incorporated on some earlier works but became a feature of the works of a number of twentieth century potters. Marguerite Mahood, Klytie Pate, William Ricketts, Dorothea and Grace Seccombe are some of the artistic or studio potters mentioned. Information is also provided about decorative works produced by potteries such as Fowlers, Bendigo Pottery and Cornwell's Pottery at Brunswick.

Published by the National Gallery of Victoria, Gwyn Hanssen Pigott a survey 1955-2005, contains a series of essays about the work of this Australian potter. Photographs of examples of her work form a major part of the book. There is also a chronology, a bibliography plus a list of collections in Australia and overseas that house her work.

Pates post-war Australian pottery by John Davenport documents the history of a family pottery established in Sydney in 1946. Alf Pate originally worked for Fowlers Pottery until with two family members Pates Pottereries was built. Photographs provide examples of the pottery that was particularly popular in the 1950s and 1960s. The author also describes the processes used to make the items, stamps and styles as well as marketing of the pieces and a guide for collectors. The book was written just before the building that had housed the pottery was demolished in 1992 but the author was able to interview family members and had access to some company documents. A history written just in time.

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