Only a few people can be easily identified with dark fantasy, surrealist, figurative or abstract art besides Peter Booth. The intense emotional power of often dark narratives and esoteric symbolism in his work were defined by the horrors of World War II. His work was also inspired by other artists and authors like Goya, Dostoyevsky, and even the Bible. The most peculiar inspiration of them all were the visions he reportedly had seen from a young age. The hybrid apocalyptic monsters reflected on his works were represented by these dreams. His works reveal the violent nature of mankind, but they also show that nature can heal itself.
Brownie Downing earned a name in the Australian art world by bringing to life the magic of childhood to generations of children and adults to come, both in Australia and overseas. She got her inspiration through her extensive travels, where she was able to create a portfolio of paintings of children of many different nationalities. She made some Aboriginal studies, which in turn influenced her works in art. Each time Aboriginal characters were displayed on items such as porcelain dishes and wall plaques, people loved it. Brownie also painted prolifically and had many originals sold. In fact, some of them were printed and marketed all over Australia.
Even from a young age, Charles Noke already showed a keen interest in the design and manufacture of the porcelain. This was noticed by his father’s friend, Mr. Binns, and allowed him to wander in the Worcester factory. This whole experience would then become Charles’s defining moment. Charles gradually built up his own reputation as a stylish modeller of figurines and vases and showing them at national exhibitions. This caught the attention of Royal Doulton’s director at the time. He was offered a post as chief designer, and would then become the premier modeller and designer of Royal Doulton. Because of him, Doulton series, new glazes and limited editions were introduced.
Diana Pottery Pty Ltd became the most popular Australian ceramics manufacturer between the 1940s and the 1960s. It started out from young Eric Lowe’s passion with his entrepreneurial ambition to import cut glass and crockery from Czechoslovakia and Germany. Back then, the company was actually called Eric C Lowe Pty Ltd. The name Diana was inspired by Jack Christopher’s interest in Greek mythology. And since the wares from the pottery at this stage were unmarked, one of their workers suggested that DIANA be embossed into the base of their moulds to identify their work. Now, the company is well known for slip-ware, kitchenware, hand-painted pottery and ovenware.
Among Royal Doulton’s artists, Leslie was the free spirit. His independent nature is what gave his art variety. His dream was to own a small studio where he could sculpt clay of figures of his own designs. After realizing that his dream was out of his reach, Leslie and his brother bought land to farm. Unfortunately, the soil was poor and the farm was isolated. It wasn’t always bad news for Leslie though, as he found clay on their land, and he modelled with them whenever he could. With Charles Noke’s help, Leslie would later become one of Royal Doulton’s regular and prolific modellers.
Before John Castle Harris became a potter, he was a printer and a volunteer soldier. His career as a soldier was cut short when he was declared medically unfit to fight after sustaining a gunshot wound to his right thigh. He went back to Australia and sold punched and embossed leather tablecloths as a means of livelihood. Harris developed his pottery skills by attending clay modelling lessons with Una Deerbon and working informally at the Deerbon Pottery School as well as the Premier Pottery at Preston. John’s dislike of the handcraft ideals of the time and his animal motif designs made his works stand out.
Allan James George Lowe trained as a painter before teaching himself pottery. He even built his first kiln with the assistance of an advisor from the Hoffman Potteries. He took more intense pottery classes under the tutelage of Gladys Kelly of the Working Men’s College before he started his potting career full-time. Allan’s earthenware was simple but with sophisticated glazes and minimal decorations. His work was special as it was both influenced by Chinese forms and Aboriginal art. Australia has an indigenous heritage that provides a rich source of inspiration, and this was when Australians were looking for a national cultural identity.
Fowler’s Pottery was founded by Enoch Fowler, an Irish immigrant who arrived in Sydney in 1837. Enoch had a rough start. He lost his family during their voyage to Australia. He also had to change his age just so he can get the government-assisted passage for skilled migrants. However, every cloud has a silver lining. Enoch remarried and had registered the company officially to produce ginger beer bottles, jars, and clay pipes. Fowler’s soon began to mass produce and made products that included edging tiles, bricks, stoneware containers, chimney pots, and laundry tubs. Fowler Potteries is now known as the oldest pottery still in operation in Australia.
Alfred James Pate was growing up with his parents when he developed an interest in the work of art and began creatively making diagrams and carving of things that he liked. This led him to learn the pottery trade at Fowlers Pottery in Marrickville. When he got married, he began making experimental slip pottery in a garage at his backyard and eventually founded Pates Potteries Pty Ltd. After the war, there was an increased demand for decorative pottery. Pates took advantage of this by mass-producing slipware of different colours and sizes. These colourful slip cast domestic wares became the trademark of Pates Potteries and made the company a household name.
The Hoffman Brick and Potteries Limited was one of the largest businesses in Melbourne, producing a variety of decorative wares known as “Melrose Australian Ware”. The Hoffman Company was known for mass producing bricks and entered a period of expansion as soon as the company was established. Their business faced a decline during the 1890s depression, but they joined the Brick Co-operative, which regulated the prices and output of its members’ brickworks. Business picked up as soon as the depression was over. The company then expanded its business interests and bought over a small art-pottery. They eventually became known for their wares, which stood out because of their unique blue and green glaze.
Eero Saarinen was a Finnish American architect and designer. His famous designs would include the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri and the Womb Chair. This neo-futuristic designer started receiving critical recognition when he was working with his father. He then went on and won several awards. The most notable of these awards was from an architectural competition for what would later be known as the Gateway Arch National Park. Aside from his architectural works, Eero also designed furniture, oftentimes including them in his architectural designs of building interiors. Despite his relatively short career, Eero is an indelible mark on architecture and his furniture designs are highly sought after up to this day.
Le Corbusier was born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret in Switzerland. He eventually acquired a French citizenship and got the pseudonym: Le Corbusier. Even though Jeanneret had no formal training as an architect, he designed numerous structures throughout Europe. Following his father’s footsteps, he first studied watch engraving under Charles L’Eplattenier. Ironically, it was his teacher who got him into architecture. When he moved to Paris, he became busy with exhibits, lectures, publishing books, and architectural projects. Le Corbusier conceptualized new ways to classify furniture. Despite the controversies of his socio-political ties, one could argue that he played an immense role in the birth of modern design and architecture.
The Florenz Pottery Pty Ltd has one of the humblest beginnings. Florence Maude Williams began her pottery work in a garage. Her husband built an oil-fired kiln for her and their daughter also worked at the pottery. It was a family business. Like other pottery companies during the Second World War, Florenz Pottery gained government contracts to war-related works, so little decorative ware is found around the time. After the war, the company made all kinds of hand-thrown and slip cast ceramics. Florenz also raised many well-known potters. After Florence’s death, her husband sold the pottery, and the company experienced several management changes until its closure in 1980.
Of the ten Lindsay siblings, Norman Lindsay was one of the five who shared a common interest in art. He and his brother Lionel were especially distinguished. Norman taught himself to draw after being forced to remain in the house due to a blood disorder. He was captivated by Solomon J. Solomon’s Ajax and Cassandra when he first saw it at the Ballarat Fine Arts Gallery. This would become the source of Norman’s interest in nudes in his art. As an avid reader, he was also influenced by Nietzsche’s philosophy. Despite the controversy surrounding some of his works, Norman’s art style became more sophisticated and he became the highest-earning Australian artist before WWI.
Lionel Lindsay was among the most influential artists in Australia. As a matter of fact, his whole family influenced Australian art and opinion for around 8 decades. Lionel first learned art lessons in watercolour. He then studied at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School in Melbourne. Despite having these formal art lessons, his forte was actually self-taught. This would include etching and engraving. He was a strong believer in drawing as an essential basis of fine art and its degradation with the advent of modern art. His recreation of day-to-day life in Sydney is what made his work most significant. His work is still being exhibited today in Australia and around the world.
Margaret (Peggy) Davies was born in the heart of the Staffordshire pottery industry. No one knew she’d become one of Royal Doulton’s most respected and prolific figurine artists. She had a tough childhood, battling disease and poverty. Fortunately, her artistic talent was noticed by one of her teachers who allowed her more time on creative endeavours. At 12 years old, she won a scholarship to study at the Burslem College of Art. She started working for Royal Doulton during World War II, became a nurse, then came back to being a designer under contract to Royal Doulton. Now, her figurines are very collectable and prices vary enormously.
Besides being an influential potter, Annie Mitchell was also an influential teacher. In 1929, she went to Central Technical College at Brisbane where she studied under L.J. Harvey. Because Harvey so much believed in the hand-built pottery method, Annie also adopted this method of creating potteries. After studying under Harvey, she came back to Adelaide and set up her own pottery school. Her pots were quite distinctive in their style and featured “uneven walls” with embellishments like leaves and gumnuts. Like other notable Australian potters, Annie Mitchell’s pottery pieces are valued at great prices. Until now, collectors from all around the world are on the lookout for these rare pieces.
“An artist who makes a deliberate break with previous styles.” – That’s how one would define Grace Cossington Smith. She was regarded as one of the few artists, if not the first, to initiate modernist art in Australia. Her story started when her parents sent her for drawing classes with Antonio Salvatore Dattilo-Rubbo. This is where Grace was introduced to Cezanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. From the first World War to the second, Grace had already painted numerous pieces. However, she was not widely known until she was in her 70’s. Her legacy lives on in the form of a biennial art award, run by a not-for-profit initiative in honour of her.