Imagine that your vocation was a painter of fine decorative arts, and your primary occupation was painting scene after scene of highland cattle, sheep, game birds and British pastoral landscapes onto porcelain vases, urns, cups and saucers. Furthermore, imagine devoting 67 years of your life to this art form, spending much of it in the company of your father and uncle who had also made it their vocation.
The artist I speak of is Harry Stinton, the last and arguably most celebrated of the Stinton family artists whose dynasty at various Worcester porcelain factories, namely Royal Worcester, lasted for almost 167 years; a period that spanned the late 18th century to the mid 20th century. Harry’s uncle James and father John Stinton Jnr, whom Harry worked under for many years, are among the most recognised of the Stinton artists for painting and decorating Worcester porcelain in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The perfection and refinement of their artistry is still admired today in a variety of examples of Royal Worcester porcelain.
Harry Stinton’s long tenure as a painter and devotion to his medium was typical of most artists working in the field of hand-painted and signed porcelain, a field particularly prolific during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. In this industry, in order to avoid redundancy an artist or worker often had to establish them selves as irreplaceable within the manufacturing process. Artists had to perfect their chosen subject, medium or technique and this often lead to extreme secrecy among peers and co-workers.
‘There are many examples of workers of the times being the only people who knew how to do their job or what the recipe was for their particular part of the manufacturing process.’ Peter Marsh, 2005.
During the Stinton family’s 160 plus year dynasty, they became recognised among Worcester artists for their refinement of subjects such as pastoral scenes, highland cattle and game birds. Harry Stinton’s grandfather, John Stinton Snr was the first to mix oil of cloves with the paint to stop it drying out too quickly, a tradition that was passed down through the Stinton dynasty. It is said their studios were always filled with the distinctive smell of cloves.
From the early 1900s to 1941 many of Britain’s most skilled artists including Harry Davis, George Owen, Walter Sedgley, Richard Sebright and numerous others were also employed at the Royal Worcester factory, a period that is now commonly referred to as the company’s golden years. Together with their varied degrees of diligence, uncanny skill, and perfectionism, these artists made Royal Worcester a coveted manufacturer of English porcelain, particularly in the hand-painted and artist signed field.
Revered for intricate gilding, majestic shapes and vibrant colour, each piece of Royal Worcester is painted as a one off, signed and dated; to a collector these attributes are most gratifying.
During my research for this article I was amused to discover the term ‘Worcesteristus’. The wife of an obsessed Royal Worcester collector supposedly coined it to express her husband’s elation at yet another epic auction win. Perhaps it was a fine Royal Worcester highland cattle vase, signed H. Stinton?
DOMINIC KAVANAGH / Decorative Arts Specialist