Thursday, February 11, 2010

John Constable's romantic landscape paintings transferred to pottery by Grindley

I have always been drawn to transferware patterns depicting bucolic English scenery. When I look at the domestic animals grazing fields near quaint thatched cottages, lush flowering gardens, rivers or streams with bridges and oftentimes mountains in the background I always think to myself, "I'd love to live there" or "I want to move in"! I love the romanticism and seeming simplicity of an era long gone by.

One of my favorite patterns depicting these scenic views is by Grindley, an English pottery company founded by William Harry Grindley at the Newfield Pottery, Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent in 1880.   The pattern is entitled 'Scenes After Constable" showcasing an array of John Contable's romantic landscapes.   Grindley continued operation through 1991.  The company produced many wares, in particular for the markets of Canada, the United States, South America and Australia.

As a young boy, John Constable developed a unique style combining objective studies of nature with a deep, personal vision of the countryside around his home.   Most landscapists of the day traveled in search of picturesque or sublime scenery, but Constable never left England.  His name is so closely associated with his native Stour Valley that the area is sometimes referred to as "Constable country."   He is known as one of the greatest British landscape artists of all time, although during his life his paintings were considered unfashionable and he gained little recognition.

1827 was the year that John Constable began working on a project which would consume his attention and time, until his death seven years later. This project was the publication of prints based on a series of his paintings. The painter closely collaborated with David Lucas, an engraver, to create prints that would adequately communicate the didactic intentions of Constable: to illustrate the "chiaroscuro of nature." Mezzotint, a medium employed to develop from dark to light using an array of velvet like tones, was perfectly suited for this project. The bright sunshine of a summer morning illuminates a textured landscape, variegated in light and shade.

Summer Morning Engraving
Made by David Lucas (British, 1802–1881); Designed by John Constable (British, 1776–1837)
Grindley Summer Morning Blue Transferware Pitcher Circa 1940-50

Summer Morning, painting ca. 1830


The Hay-Wain, the painting exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821 and at the British Institution in 1822 under another title, Landscape: Noon, was one of the big 'six-footers' on which Constable worked in the winters in London from sketches and studies made in the county during the summer. The harvest wagon of the modern title was copied from a drawing made by John Dunthorne, Constable's childhood friend and assistant, and sent at Constable's request from Suffolk. The view is of farmer Willy Lott's cottage on a mill stream of the River Stour near Flatford Mill, of which Constable's father had the tenancy. A full-scale sketch for the picture is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. In this final version Constable omitted a figure on horseback at the edge of the stream, substituting a barrel which he later painted out (but which is beginning to show through).

The Hay-Wain Platter - Red Transferware c 1950


A Lock on the Stour Engraving

A Lock on the Stour Two Color Transfer ware plate with hand tinting.  Circa 1930

A Lock on the Stour Black Transfer ware bowl by Grindley circa 1930-40
A Lock on the Stour River Plate - blue transferware - Grindley c. 1930


The swallows flew in the curves of an eight
Above the river-gleam
In the wet June's last beam:
Like little crossbows animate
The swallows flew in the curves of an eight
Above the river-gleam.

Planing up shavings of crystal spray
A moor-hen darted out
From the bank thereabout,
And through the stream-shine ripped his way;
Planing up shavings of crystal spray
A moor-hen darted out.

Closed were the kingcups; and the mead
Dripped in monotonous green,
Though the day's morning sheen
Had shown it golden and honeybee'd;
Closed were the kingcups; and the mead
Dripped in monotonous green.

And never I turned my head, alack,
While these things met my gaze
Through the pane's drop-drenched glaze,
To see the more behind my back . . .
O never I turned, but let, alack,
These less things hold my gaze!

Thomas Hardy


  1. Thanks for all the history on Grindley. I have a rectangle platter that has pine cones, made in Tunstall, so I am assuming it was made prior to 1891, as it has the globe and steamer boat on the back stamp. I believe the pattern name may be Oxford. It is blue transferware. There is so little information available on this particular pattern. Have you ever seen or heard of it? I check eBay every so often but have never seen this pattern.

  2. Nancy, there is so much I DON'T know about transferware, and so much you DO know..... it's fascinating to read about it, thanks so much for sharing. The plate above, A Lock on the Stour Two Color Transferware plate with hand tinting. Circa, I love that plate, such rich colors in it. I am so glad I have finally pursued my longtime interest in transferware, and am building my collection. Thanks again! Carol B.


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