Luca Signorelli, also known as Luca da Cortona, was probably born sometime between 1445-1450. Although little information is available on his private life, he is reputed to have been a family man, living relatively comfortably. Signorelli was renowned for his use of foreshortening and his aptitude as a draughtsman. His nudes and enormous frescoes also set him aside as an artist of great skill. Michelangelo is said to have used some of these figures for his work on the Sistine Chapel wall. His work, the Last Judgement, is considered to be his greatest accomplishment. Its spectacular composition is regarded as being one of the most important of Italian Renaissance art.
Christopher Dresser was an English designer whose knowledge of past styles and experience with modern manufacturing processes made him a pioneer in professional design. Dresser successfully introduced to British design elements from many cultures across the world, especially Japanese. He created ceramics, metalwork, silver, glass, textiles, wallpaper, and other items. Dresser was notably important in introducing modern industrial techniques by working directly with manufacturers to produce elegant and affordable products. A lot of Dresser’s metalwork designs are still in production today, which are now manufactured by Alessi. One of his Old Hall designs is thought to have inspired Alan Garner’s 1967 novel ‘The Owl Service’.
Drummond & Co. was a partnership between Samuel Brush and William Drummond in Collins Street. It was called the Brush & MacDonnell Company. The name was changed after the death of Samuel Brush in 1878, which was maintained till its closure. The company had been renowned for style and quality since inception. At Drummond & Co., all royalty, entertainers, politicians and gentry have had the Drummond experience, where exclusive jewellery, fine china, crystal and the sniff of snobbery combined to affirm one’s social status. Even some cashed-up underworld figures and brothel madams had a reputable outlet in which to spend their money.
Modern art refers to works of art produced roughly from 1850 to 1970. The term is often used ambiguously to refer to artwork created after the said period. After all, the term modern is used to refer to the current time. One could say that modern art is the art of change. It was born in an era that saw the dawn of industrialisation that created a wave of change, affecting everything. Modern artists’ techniques adapted with the changing philosophies and technological advancements that emerged in their time. They focused on and tried to capture what was happening around them, how they saw it, and how it made them feel.
Kitty Blake was a driving force at the Royal Worcester during her long period of work there. At Worcester, she specialised in small fruits and flowers. Many of her pieces capture perfectly the Autumn colours, the reddish leaves and the glossy blackberries. There are also delicate items with white backgrounds and pretty coloured flowers. Very often, the colours are light but clear. Kitty Blake has left us with some beautiful flower paintings and the most appetising blackberries you can find on a vase. Her work must be a welcome addition for any collector of Worcester Porcelain, or for anyone who likes pretty things.
August Brunkhorst was the successor to Henry Steiner and was another notable silverware dealer in Adelaide. After the famous collapse of the Australian economy and the loss of Steiner’s wife and two children from a typhoid epidemic, Steiner decided to sell off his business. The buyer was August Brunkhorst, who was his employee. The business was again sold by August Brunkhorst to Caris Brothers before his death, at the age of seventy-one years. There is not much known about August Brunkhorst and his business, but many historians and museums are trying to fill in the gaps and recover any of the pieces that he sold or made.
Frida Kahlo is known for many things: her passion, her political activism, her numerous self-portraits, and her turbulent marriage with Diego Rivera, whose fiery temperament rivalled hers. Aside from drawing from her personal experiences, Frida’s paintings were also influenced by her Mexican heritage. Above all, Frida should be remembered for her courage to confront her pain and express it through her art. She painted her struggles in a time when any woman who expressed her pain through her art would be labelled a hysteric or even insane. Through her paintings, Frida may have helped others, artists and non-artists to confront their pain and find the courage to carry on.
Basse-taille, meaning low-cut in French, is an enamelling technique where the artist creates a low-relief pattern in precious metal such as silver and gold by engraving or chasing. The technique was developed in Italy in the 13th century, and its work enamel was very popular in Europe especially during the Gothic and Renaissance periods. This style was used in the late Middle Ages and later revived in the 17th century. And following the invention of the domestic table clock and of the watch in the 16th century, enamelling became one of the most popular forms of decoration for the dials and cases.
Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter who was best known for his post-impressionistic style of painting and his use of bold colours and empathic brushwork, a highly innovative art style during his time. He is the personified image of the struggling and tortured artist. He was a relative unknown who couldn’t even sell his paintings during his lifetime. Van Gogh also suffered from mental illness his whole life, which led to his early death at his own hands. Decades after his tragic end, he is now recognised for what he truly was: an artistic genius and perhaps the greatest artist the world has ever known.
J. Henry Steiner was a very prolific silversmith. He exhibited at many of the great 19th century exhibitions across the world. Despite being born and trained in Germany, Henry Steiner was an ace silversmith in Adelaide who displayed his foremost creations at many inter-colonial and international exhibitions. In around 1875, Steiner created one of his most spectacular art and functional pieces, a perfume-bottle holder that incorporated the shape of an emu egg. In 1880, the silver epergne which was made in his workshop became Australia’s largest known centrepiece. Today, the centrepiece has now been confirmed as being originally made for Australia’s first international exhibition held in Sydney in 1879 where it occupied part of Steiner’s exceedingly beautiful display.
Salvador Dali has been more known for his paintings, but he was also a sculptor, filmmaker and writer. Dali experimented with Impressionism and Pointillism when he attended the Fine Arts School in Madrid. On his visit to Picasso’s studio in Paris, Dali was inspired by Cubism. He also became interested in Futurism, as well as studying Freud’s psychoanalytic concepts. Dali explored these concepts and worked to find a way to alter perception and vividly reinterpret reality. His works would feature the strangest of subjects and emotionally charged themes. With his larger-than-life personality and artistic versatility, Dali was among the most famous and prolific artists of the 20th century.
Joachim Matthias Wendt was a silversmith and watchmaker. He migrated to Adelaide in 1854. His business flourished and within a short time, he had established himself as a watchmaker in Pirie Street. Wendt soon became a well-known watchmaker, gold and silver smith and jeweller. Wendt’s silverwork included extravagant naturalistic creations, stylish Edwardian domestic designs, and pieces which had a restrained Regency touch. His pieces were undoubtedly the finest produced in Australia in the second half of the 19th century. His contribution to the art of the goldsmith can also be seen in the range of masterworks and small domestic wares at the Art Gallery of South Australia, in public and private collections around the country.
William Edwards was a prolific silversmith who produced work of the highest quality with the best embossing ever seen in Australia. He had the advantage of being able to produce pieces here in Australia, and also to import other work from his family or brother’s workshop. Due to his success, he secured major commissions. Edwards introduced a new range of emu egg ‘novelties’ to Australian silver. The majority of his pieces were designed in the naturalistic and Rococo revival styles. His workshop also produced a number of silver pieces, occasional gold trophies and epergnes, some of which were displayed in many international exhibitions.
Pablo Picasso remains one of the most influential and prolific artists of the 20th century. At the age of seven, he began learning how to draw and do oil paintings under the tutelage of his father. In his lifetime, Picasso created more than 50,000 pieces of art in various mediums. As his final years approached, Picasso became a dervish of creativity. He took elements from his previous styles and repurposed them into stunning pieces. His art is featured in the world’s top galleries and fetches millions at auction. Picasso had a genius for finding beauty in the most mundane objects, and his style continues to have an impact on the art scene until now.
Dorrit Black never received the praise she deserved during her lifetime, but she has left us with some beautiful and interesting art. Despite considerable prejudice against her, she was determined not only to produce her own works but also to help other people in Australia enjoy the Modernistic and Cubist styles which were becoming so fashionable in Europe. Dorrit’s skills were wide-ranging. Perhaps, she was best known for her pioneering printing. She also produced some very fine watercolours, oils and was a skilled draughtswoman as well. Although Dorrit never achieved financial success during her lifetime, her paintings are now worth respectable prices.
At his young age, Claude Monet was both an artist and an entrepreneur. He would sell his charcoal drawings for 10 to 20 francs apiece. Monet learned how to use oil paints and outdoor or “en plein air” painting techniques from fellow artist Eugène Boudin. Monet’s works were among those that featured the modernisation of Paris in a unique way, with the essence of spontaneity and intuitive feeling visible on the canvas. Later in life, he focused more on the environment and atmosphere in his works while focusing less on modernity. Monet’s paintings were not only sought for locally but was quite popular in England and the United States as well.
Sandro Botticelli is the creator of probably two of the most famous paintings in the world. Botticelli was renowned for his numerous works depicting the Madonna but was also widely known for his mythological paintings. It is generally understood that he produced the under-drawings and his apprentices completed the pieces. Drawings that Botticelli himself completed were also copied by his assistants. His style was linear and thus easily imitated, which made identification of his own work extremely problematic. Although Botticelli symbolised the methodology of the Quattrocento period, he did not enhance or influence it with his own work. He had developed his own style, preferring the more Gothic approach.
The Doughty sisters were born to English explorer and writer Charles Doughty and his wife in San Remo, Italy. Freda ran modelling classes for children from their home. She would frequently use them as live models for the ceramic figurines that she fired in her own kiln. Dorothy, too, had a passion for nature and enjoyed painting. Together, the sisters had a huge impact on the survival of the Royal Worcester Company. Both with Freda’s children in the early 1930s, a little later, with Dorothy’s limited editions of birds for the American market. Different in tastes, different in what they produced, the sisters were united in a love of art and nature.