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Doulton ceramics

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The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney holds one of the best public collections of ceramics from the English firm Doulton & Co/Royal Doulton in the world.

Doulton's initial contact with Australia came in the late nineteenth century with export extruded stoneware drainpipes to the expanding cities of the colonies. In 1883 Doulton & Co opened an agency in Sydney which lasted six years. In 1892, a Staffordshire migrant, John Shorter, set up another agency in Sydney which was to ensure its commercial success in Australia for many years. Shorter was also responsible for encouraging Doulton to develop a range of wares made specifically for the Australian market. In part this inspiration came from his collaboration with Richard Baker, curator of this museum who, alongside Sydney’s French-born artist Lucien Henry, championed the creation of a national style inspired by native flora and fauna. Shorter provided Doulton with designs for a wide range of designs including a transfer-printed series of tableware commemorating the Federation of Australia in 1901. He forwarded the botanical drawings of Ada Rutherford of Bathurst and simpler floral designs of his niece Lulu Shorter to the Lambeth factory. In 1918 Shorter acquired the personal collection of the late Doulton Art Director John Slater. He gifted part of this collection to the museum in 1932, adding a splendid porcelain vase by Edward Raby and a 1880s mahogany showcase to house it. In 1939, more Doulton objects entered the collection as part of Shorter’s English ceramics bequest. Shorter’s benefaction built on the already substantial collection of early Doulton wares acquired by the museum in the 1880s and 1890s following the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition where Doulton's display won two first degrees of merit. The collection was further developed in the early 1900s with occasional additions enriching the museum’s holdings throughout the 20th century.

Doulton was one of the great entrepreneurial success stories of the 19th century. The Doulton pottery was established in 1815 in Lambeth, South London. First known as Jones, Watts and Doulton and then Doulton and Watts, the firm specialised in salt glazed stoneware, sanitary, chemical and domestic articles. Managed by Henry Doulton (1820-1897), in 1854 the firm began to trade under the name Doulton and Co. At the 1862 London International Exhibition, it exhibited the usual range of wares and an important addition, a large decorative stoneware saltcellar. The exhibition was a turning point for Doulton and marked the beginning of the production of decorative stoneware known as 'Doulton ware' which were to win the firm international recognition. From 1866 the pottery was closely associated with the Lambeth School of Art whose students, including George Tinworth, designed innovative models for, and decorated vases, sculptural ornaments and plaques; even large-scale fountains were made.

The success of Doulton's 'art wares' shown at the 1867 Paris International Exhibition encouraged Henry Doulton to establish an art department to design and produce unique pieces for international exhibitions. In 1877, Henry Doulton entered into a partnership with Shadford Pinder, the proprietor of an earthenware pottery in Burslem, Staffordshire, and the merged firm traded under the name of Pinder, Bourne and Company. When the partnership with Pinder dissolved in 1882, Doulton and Co operated in two locations: Lambeth and Burslem. In 1879 an impressive selection of objects was shipped to Sydney for display in Australia's first international exhibition. Following the closure of the expo, many pieces were purchased for the new Technological and Sanitary Museum, later known as the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Following the fire in 1882, in which the Garden Palace (which housed both the exhibition and the Museum's first collection) was destroyed, a replacement collection was provided by Doulton.

Under the management of John Bailey and artistic guidance of John Slater, the new Burslem factory proved to be a great success and a new bone china department was established in 1884. A small range of floral wares was exhibited at the 1892 Paris Exhibition and was awarded a Grand Prix. A spectacular range of works was sent to the 1893 Chicago Exhibition in America securing Doulton seven of the highest awards, the most given to any ceramic firm. By 1890, 345 people were employed at Burslem. George Tinworth was joined by Hannah, Arthur and Florence Barlow, Frank Butler, Eliza Simmance, Mark V. Marshall and others. These artists developed a wide range of decorating techniques including incised and applied relief and pate-sur-pate painting. These developments complemented distinctive wares created in Lambeth such as Faience, Impasto, Silicon and Margueterie wares. Henry Doulton died in 1897, and in 1899 a limited company was formed. Two years later King Edward VII granted the firm the rare privilege of using the word 'Royal' on its products.

During the first half of the 20th Century, the utilitarian wares and decorative stoneware continued to be produced at Lambeth, and the Burslem works were busy with tableware series and later also with figurines. One of the most significant developments at Burslem was the re-discovery of ancient glaze technologies used by Chinese potters. Charles Noke, art director from 1914, had experimented from the later 1890s with transmutation glazes and was largely responsible for the success of rouge flambe, crystalline and titanium wares, and Sung and Chang series.

Following the closure of the Lambeth works in 1956, Royal Doulton divided its interests into four major subsidiaries covering the areas of decorative porcelain ('fine china'), industrial porcelain, sanitary porcelain and 'vitrified pipes'. Renowned as a supplier of premium ceramic tableware, giftware, collectables and crystal, its brand portfolio included in the late 1900s Royal Doulton, Royal Albert and Minton among others. These brands were owned from 2005 by WWRD Holdings Ltd (Waterford Crystal, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton), based in Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent. In 2015 the ownership of WWRD was transferred to Fiskars Corporation, a Finnish producer of home products.

Eva Czernis-Ryl, 2017