The Royal Worcester Fruit Painted Porcelain
In 1751, the first Worcester Porcelaine factory was founded by a group of 15 men, headed by Dr. John Wall, an eminent physician. Dr. Wall and his partners developed their method for producing porcelain and then persuaded a group of 13 local businessmen to back their discovery with an investment in a new factory at Warmstry House. The secret of porcelain production was to be the property of the shareholders and each agreed to a penalty of 4000 pounds should they disclose knowledge of the secret to anyone. The original partnership deeds are still housed in the Worcester Museum.
Hard paste porcelain is made of 2 ingredients-kaolin (clay) and petuntse (decomposed granite). European countries were unable to unlock the secret to the formula so they made their first porcelains by substituting different materials. Kaolin instead of soapstone, for instance.The soapstone made the porcelain withstand the heat of boiling water and produced tea services that were very much in demand.
Increased tea consumption in the 1760’s created a huge demand for teawares, bringing prosperity to the Worcester factory. This didn’t last as competitors in Staffordshire began producing inexpensive wares in large quantities.
In 1789, it received a royal warrant, and is still producing porcelain by appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Meissen porcelain was greatly admired in England in the 1750?s, but its import was severly restricted and so English manufacturers imitated the meissen wares.
Hand painted fruit designs
Hand painting has always been considered a specialist art and is usually reserved for those items where a more detailed finish is required, or where machine finishing is impossible, such as sculptures and figurines.
One of the Royal Worcester specialities is the painting of fruit, particulary on tableware. The tradition of fruit paintings is certanly a hallmark of the company and it originated with the painter Octar H. Copson, who in 1880 painted a plaque commissioned by a local farmer to commemorate the introduction of the Pershore plum. Royal Worcester fruit pieces are highly sought after and have fetched prices of more than $10,000 at auctions.
Painting fruit has developed over two centuries at Royal Worcester and only the finest and most decorative shapes are reserved for this decoration, with each fruit composition a unique work of art.
The beauty of Royal Worcester fruit painted porcelain can only be achieved thanks to the varied skills that the fruit painters and craftsmen possess. Training to be a fruit painter is still one of the longest training programmes at Royal Worcester and can take as long as 7 years. The artist uses a palette of translucent colours and after the first layer of colour is applied the item is fired. Following this, further stages of painting and firing are carried out.
At each stage the painter will build up the strength of colour to give the fruit a real three dimensional quality. Translucent colours are used so that the lighter colours underneath will show through and give remarkable depth to the finished piece.
The hand painting complete, many rich ware items are embellished with gold. Three different 22-carat golds are used to achieve the desired appearance.
Throughout the history of Royal Worcester there have been many highly skilled artists but at no time was this more evident than with the talented and exciting group of painters assembled there in the 1920s. Richard Sebright, Edward Townsend, William Ricketts, Horace Price, Thomas Lockyer, John Freeman, Kitty Blake, Harry Ayrton and brothers Walter and Harry Austin are the most excellente painters from company’s “golden period” of 20?s and 30?s of the 20th Century. Some of them spent working for the Royal Worcester company for more then 50 years, with the passion and love, often struggling to earn enough money for decent living (usually they were paid by numbers of items finished). The painters being the most notable member of the workforce as seen from the publics perspective and Royal Worcester allowed them to sign the work on the front face rather than include a monogram in the base marks. In addition most painters were encouraged to specialise in a particular theme. They will be remembered as an exceptional artist with a special style and unique interpretation.