Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Ceramics

Gardiner Museum

The nineteenth century saw the perfection and invention of many new ceramic bodies and methods of decoration. These techniques enabled the mass-production of quality, yet affordable tableware that appealed to a wide segment of the market. This period was also characterized by stylistic eclecticism.

By mid-century, the prevailing neoclassical taste was replaced by a vast array of revival styles, leading to the Gothic revival and a new interest in the art of Antiquity and the Renaissance. At the turn of the century, traditional historical revivals were rejected by proponents of the Aesthetic Movement, Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, and Secessionist styles. The Gardiner Museum’s collection reflects the technological advances and stylistic movements that typify ceramic history in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. At the core of this collection are significant holdings of Minton and ceramics for the Canadian market.
In the closing years of the eighteenth century, Josiah Spode developed the first bone china. This hybrid porcelain contains almost 50 per cent calcined bone ash as well as kaolin and feldspar. It amalgamated two earlier developments in English porcelain: bone ash, used first by the Bow manufactory; and kaolin, discovered by William Cookworthy. Bone china was soon adopted by many producers in England because wares could be made with thin, strong bodies that were more stable in the kiln and less expensive to produce. By 1799 Joseph Poulson, the partner of Thomas Minton, began making bone china next door to Minton’s earthenware manufactory in Stoke-on-Trent. It was marketed by Minton and financed by William Pownall.  Production continued until about 1816. During this period at least 948 different patterns were introduced. In 1824, a purpose-built manufactory was built by Minton who introduced an improved formula for bone china.  Minton was one of the foremost and most innovative producers of ceramics in England throughout the nineteenth century. The Gardiner Museum collection of Minton was established by N. Robert Cumming. It ranges from a deep assemblage of early patterns and shapes, through to wares of the early twentieth century.

William Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, Viscount Milton (1839–1877) and Dr. Walter Butler Cheadle (1836–1910) travelled from Quebec to Victoria between 1862 and 1863, later publishing an account of their adventures, The North-West Passage by Land (London, 1865). To commemorate their journey, Lord Milton commissioned two dessert services decorated with scenes from the publication from Minton. He presented one to his travelling companion, Dr. Cheadle.

This Minton Moon Flask vase was modelled as a Ming Period pilgrim flask of flattened globular form.

It is decorated in cloisonne style, with polychrome enameling and affronted stylized phoenix birds, and interlaced foliage on a turquoise or bleu celeste ground, with gilt details.

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812–1852), a pioneer of the Gothic Revival style in England, produced many Gothic tableware designs for Minton. This iconic bread dish, decorated with a rosette and stalks of wheat and inscribed Waste Not Want Not, was the first such pattern. The concept of inlaying coloured clays to form a design, instead of using enamels or glazes, was called “encaustic” in the nineteenth century. It was copied from medieval floor tiles.

Ceramics for the Canadian Market
The Gardiner’s collection of ceramics for the Canadian market includes pottery made in Canada in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with a focus on Ontario and Quebec, and tableware made in England for export to various parts of the British Empire. The group of tableware made for export to the Canadian market consists of transfer-printed earthenware with Canadian imagery made in the second half of the nineteenth century in the potteries of Staffordshire, England. Presenting arctic scenery, topographical views, and representations of Canadian sports among other themes, these products contributed to the development of a romantic image of Canada, and the dissemination of themes of nationhood and identity. This collection was greatly enhanced by a gift from Barbara and James Moscovich.

The exploits of Sir William Parry (1790–1855) on his two expeditions to the Arctic were popular on both sides of the Atlantic after the publication of his Journal of a Voyage of Discovery of a North-West Passage in 1821 and 1824. Here we see the ships Hecla and Griper in the ice at Melville Sound. A border of tropical animals encircles the scene, perhaps because Parry was seeking a viable northern route to China and India.

Platter with the Death of General James Wolfe (1727-1759)

This scene commemorating the Death of General Wolfe, Sept 13, 1759 was popular for a half-century and represents an early view of Canada on pottery.

Blue plate with transfer print of Table Rock at Niagara Falls.
One of the earliest Canadian views printed on tableware, this pattern was a popular souvenir and often collected as an American scene, hence the American seal stamp. In 1867 Table Rock was eroding and destroyed for safety reasons.

Sugar Bowl with the Village of Cedars, St. Lawrence River

This jug with brown transfer-print of early Canadian sports scenes depicts figures playing lacrosse on one side and tobagganing on the other.

Scenes of sports reflecting the romance of Canadian outdoors and winters inspired the Scottish tableware manufacturer John Marshall and Co., Bo’ness Pottery. The source for these pictures may have been greeting cards published in the 1880s by Bennet and Co. This line was used in summer houses and cottages.

Made at the St. John's Stone Chinaware Company in Quebec, this teapot has a sky-blue body emulating Wedgwood jasperware and is one of the factory’s signature and higher-end lines. It was made from imported English clay and French blue flint. The pattern also came in white with blue sprig decoration.

This style of pottery is associated with the productions of the Brownscombe Pottery in Kinloss Township, Ontario, which was active between c. 1870-90. This jug is made of earthenware, which has been shaped on a wheel, and then decorated with applied sprays of flowers and single blooms, and given a red tinged glaze. It has a vibrant, naïve quality, and is a superb example of Brownscombe work.

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