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Artists' Biographies

Friedrich Adler (1878-1942)

Dr Christopher Dresser (1834-1904)

Hagenauer (Austrian, established 1898)

Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956)

Archibald Knox (1864-1933)

Liberty & Co

Loetz (Austrian, 1836-1939)

Koloman Moser (1868-1918)

Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

Marc Chagall (1889-1985)

Salvador Dali (1904-1990)

Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980)

Fernand Leger (1881-1955)

Joan Miro (1893-1983)

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Victor Vasarely (1908-1997)

Articles

The beauty of 'English Art Nouveau'


Friedrich Adler (1878-1942)
This German born architect/designer was a seminal figure in the Darmstadt movement along with Joseph Maria Olbrich and Albin Muller.  He produced a number of designs in pewter and mixed metals.


Dr Christopher Dresser (1834-1904)
This British botanist, designer  was one of the first industrial designers producing furniture, metalwork and ceramics.  His early work was influenced by Japanese and Persian art.  This evolved into some of the first examples of modernist design.


Hagenauer (Austrian, established 1898)
The Hagenauer workshop was established in Vienna in 1898 and are best known for a wide range of bronze, chrome and wood stylised figures and animals.  Many of the sculptures are influenced by artists such as Brancusi and Modigliani.


Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956)
This Austrian architect and designer was the founding member of the Vienna Secessionist Movement as well as the Wiener Werkstatte.  He is noted for his radical modernist furniture, metalware and glass designs.


Archibald Knox (1864-1933)
This British designer produced some outstanding metalwork designs for Liberty & Co at the turn of the century.  Some of his designs are starkly modernist whilst others contain Celtic motifs.


Liberty & Co
This well known English retail firm was established in 1875.  It quickly became known for its unique art fabrics, metalware, glass and ceramics and was a seminal force in establishing English art nouveau.

 

Loetz (Austrian, 1836-1939)
This glassmaking firm, founded at Klostermuhle by Johann Loetz, is best known for its high quality iridescent art glass.  It was made in response to the success of Louis Comfort Tiffany but in many ways created its own unique identity.  Some of the designers were well known figures from the Wiener Werkstatte.


Koloman Moser (1868-1918)
This Austrian painter, architect and designer was a leading figure in the Vienna Secessionist movement and also in the Wiener Werkstatte.  He is noted for his furniture, metalware and glass designs.


Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
American sculptor and creator of the mobile, he has achieved an international reputation and is noted for his outstanding  limited edition lithographs.  A major retrospective of Calder was recently mounted in Washington DC.  Most major international art collections have examples of his work.


Marc Chagall (1889-1985)
Born in Vitebsk, Russia he moved to Paris in 1910 where he became involved in the Ecole de Paris.  He is known for his love of rich translucent colours which are most evident in the many limited edition lithographs he produced.  Most international modern art collections have examples of his work.


Salvador Dali (1904-1990)
This Spanish born artist was one of the leading members of the Surrealist Movement.  He worked extensively in the medium of etching and lithography.   Large examples of his paintings now hang in the  Mueum of Modern Art New York and the Tate Gallery, London.


Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980)
Born in Austria he was a leading figure in the Vienna Secessionist  movment and developed an individual expressionistic style.  This is evident in the many woodcuts and litographs he produced.  His work can be seen in most major public modern art collections worldwide.


Fernand Leger (1881-1955)
French painter and designer born in Normandy.  He  is known for his bold, flat images utilising large areas of primary colours with bold black outlines. His work is represented in major public collections worldwide.


Joan Miro (1893-1983)
Born in Spain he was an original member of the Surrealist movement.     However, his work evolved into a more abstract free flowing style which is present in the many limited edition graphics he produced.  His work is represented in most of the major collections of modern art.


Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Born in Spain, Picasso is arguably the best known artistic figure of the 20th century.  His work spans many styles from Cubism to Classicism.  He also worked prolifically in many different mediums including ceramics and graphics which are represented in most major collections worldwide.


Victor Vasarely (1908-1997)
The Hungarian-French painter was the most influential master in the realm of Op Art.  His work is represented in collections worldwide.   He is best known for his inventive use of coloured shapes which optically vibrate when juxtaposed.  This is evident in the many seriegraphs he created in the 1960s through 1980s. Liberty & Co Pewter

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'The beauty of 'English Art Nouveau'
By Paul Carter Robinson

© 2004 This article appeared as the foreword to the exhibition 'The beauty of 'English Art Nouveau', Harvard House Museum of British Pewter, Stratford-Upon-Avon, May-Oct 2004

The name of Liberty & Co has represented a high standard of quality for over a century. Arthur Lasenby Liberty founded this great London emporium in 1875, mainly specialising in fine imported silk and oriental ceramics. His Regent Street shop became popular with the aesthetes of the period attracting such notable painters as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was always searching for interesting fabrics to use as backdrops in their paintings and Liberty's proved a rich source of inspiration.

Arthur Liberty had a keen business acumen and was also a master at marketing. The rise of Liberty's popularity can be linked to its ability to capture the public's changing mood and taste at a time when England was reaping the financial benefits of the Industrial Revolution and the expansive British Empire.

In the late 19th century there was a resurgence of craft guilds in Britain. These workshops tried to emulate the guilds of the Middle Ages. Many were moderately successful and set up their own shops or found more established retailers such as Morris & Co to sell their wares. All items were hand made and lovingly crafted. This era produced some of the finest objects seen since the Renaissance, but priced at a level that only a Medici could afford. Liberty was able to encapsulate the essence of this style known as The Arts & Crafts Movement. He utilised modern methods of production and was a capable force in bringing this fashionable style to the masses at an affordable price.

Liberty began his infatuation with pewter at the turn of the 20th century. The revival of pewter as a medium for tableware and decorative objects was already popular in Germany. Liberty turned to companies such as Kayserzinn, (see vase) Osiris and Orivit as a readily available source. It is also possible that they stocked WMF the largest of the German pewter firms. The entire range proved to be extremely popular and appear in abundance in the Liberty Yuletide catalogues of the period. It was at this point that Liberty saw the commercial potential of manufacturing his own range of pewter.

Liberty had already established a partnership with W. H. Haseler, a Birmingham based silver workshop. They produced a wide range of household silver items and jewellery much of it enamelled. Many of these items were commission pieces and very expensive. Liberty financed the expansion of Haseler's workshop, which then developed the capacity to produce a leadless pewter. The content of the pewter was made up of 94.6% tin, 4.2% antimony, 0.79% copper and 0.28% silver. (1) Liberty wanted to shed the Germanic influences of his pewter range and produce a pure British vernacular rival. He aptly named it Tudric, a word creation evoking the romance of the Tudor period.

The key to Liberty's success was in his flare for design and more pertinently, the hiring of top designers. Liberty had retained The Silver Studio a family firm consisting of Arthur Silver and his sons Rex and Harry. Towards the end of the 19th century they produced some of the most vibrant fabric designs of the period.

Some of the earliest production pieces of Liberty pewter were based on designs by David Veasey. (See OLD Time Sake loving cup) The entry for a design of a motto bowl appears in a competition in The Studio circa 1899. It is not known whether this drawing was purchased from the artist, but it is likely that it was Veasey's introduction to The Silver Studio where he continued as a fabric designer well into the 1920's.

Archibald Knox also started his relationship with Liberty & Co through The Silver Studio. Knox hailed from the Isle of Man where he attended Art College in the capital, Douglas. His native Celtic roots inspired by a childhood fascination of local archeology heavily influenced his style. This can be clearly seen by his use of intertwining Celtic knots and indigenous plant motifs. Christopher Dresser, the father of industrial design, very likely employed Knox in the early days. It is a much-debated topic amongst design historians. Knox was certainly aware of Dresser's designs and published theories. His clean modernist shapes, many designed around the time of Dresser's death, reflect this.

Liberty pewter was polished to a bright silver finish. They added a plenished effect to the surface of the pewter in the molds, to give it a hand hammered finish. The first offerings, mainly candlesticks, bowls and vases, struck a note with the public and became an instant seller. The Liberty design department saw the commercial potential of adding hand made enamels to the molded pewter. They brazenly poached C R Ashbee's main enamel designer, Charles Varley , from the Guild Of Handicrafts workshop. These enamels were mainly used to adorn pewter cigarette and jewellery boxes that were almost exact copies of the GOH's silver originals.

Another first wave designer at Liberty was Oliver Baker (see tankard and bowl on legs) Baker's style was more traditional utilising W A S Benson type design elements such as splayed handles, strapping and pointed raised feet. His most unusual offering is the bowl on display, which has an organic sea creature inspired shape. It is slightly more Germanic in appearance than other Liberty designs and borrows from Hugo Leven, the Kayserzinn designer. Bernard Curzan was also commissioned to design for Liberty, although it is rare to find any of his work in pewter.

Liberty continued to produce pewter ware until the First World War. Following the war the style altered dramatically reflecting the new taste for anything Art Deco. These items were simple, plain and usually plenished. Some items had narrow traditional border designs around the rims or bases. The earlier more popular designs continued in production until the Second World War, again for variety some of the smooth finishes were recreated with a plenished effect or sometimes enamelled buttons were added to extend a design run.

In many ways Liberty never regained its design edge after the First World War. It always remained a cutting edge retailer mounting exciting exhibitions throughout the 20th century. However, after the death of Arthur Liberty in 1917, the shop seemed to have lost its ability to actively create and market original designs.

Marks

Liberty pewter bares a number of different stamped marks: The most common are: Tudric, English Pewter, Made for Liberty & Co and Carolean. Generally a production number beginning with 0 follows. A number of different interpretations have been made as to the dating of these numbers. Mervyn Levy states that the number 0370 would place the item in question at 1904/5 however it is also logical that the 03 is the date and the 75 the actual production number.

(1) This information was kindly provided by William Grant. It was carried out by the Sheffield Analytical Services and contradicts earlier information available in Mervyn Levy's book Liberty Style. It is interesting to note that silver was part of the alloys used, as 20th century Pewter was often referred to as poor mans silver. Also many thanks to Charles Hull for pointing out this analysis.

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