THE STINTON FAMILY: The Royal Dynasty in Pottery

Royal Worcester porcelain vase painted by John Stinton, 1906 - photo by Lempertz

Royal Worcester has always been known for the very high quality of the artists’ painting. Perhaps the best known are the members of the Stinton family.

Throughout the 158 years of their association with the Worcester Pottery, first being employed by Grainger’s and later at Royal Worcester when Graingers were taken over, they have produced fine artwork, particularly in their chosen specialities, encompassing game birds, cattle, castles and landscapes.

The family tree below is abbreviated and does not show all the members of the family, but it serves to show the relationship between the famous Stinton artists.

Harry was the first to be employed in the pottery industry, little is known about his life, but he started work at the Grainger factory before it came under the auspices of the Royal Worcester in 1905.

John Stinton Senior (1829- 1895)

Harry had a son, John Senior, born in 1829. John started his career at the age of 11 years in 1840 and worked for 55 years in the pottery industry. By the age of 22, he was already one of the most respected artists at Graingers. His chosen subjects were landscapes, castles, cattle & especially highland cattle. He was also the first member of the family who mixed oil of cloves with his paints. This stopped them drying out too quickly and this trick was passed down through the Stinton family.

John Senior had 5 sons and three of them became Royal Worcester painters. His eldest, John Junior (born 1854) only joined the Grainger factory to join his father when he was 35 years old.

Walter Stinton was John’s fourth son. He worked at Graingers and painted landscapes – often of New Zealand which he copied from pictures. He later moved to the Locke factory where his paintings of game birds were admired. He seems to have been very skilled but when Locke’s closed down in 1905 he turned to make windmills.

James Stinton

A Royal Worcester teacup panel decorated by James Stinton – photo by The Saleroom | Lot 56

John senior’s last son was James Stinton, born in 1870. He started work in 1902 and moved to the Royal Worcester when Grainger was taken over by the Worcester company. He painted gamebirds – and not only on porcelain, like vases, plates and the popular coffee sets, but he also painted watercolours – with much the same subject matter.

He finally retired in 1951 and died at the age of 81 years.

A couple of examples of his work include a cup decorated with pheasants and a gold rim is costing around 80 USD and this stunning bag-shaped vase, only 8 cms high, recently went for 396.34 AUD.

John Stinton Junior (1854-1956

John painted highland cattle in particular, but also English cattle, castles and his scenes decorate many a plate centre. We are fortunate in that after the turn of the century, artists were permitted to sign their work, and John Junior’s signature can be found most on his work, which was produced after that.

Perhaps if you find one of his cattle scenes, you could look for the feet. Apparently, he couldn’t paint feet and usually hid them in the grass.

One example of his work is a fine pair of vases with highland cattle (and invisible feet) going for 36735.64 AUD.

Pair of Worcester Vases by John Stinton – photo by 1stDibs

John also painted watercolours and supplemented his income by selling them. This was common practice at the time.

John was also a keen gardener and even grew his own tobacco in an especially heated greenhouse. Despite being a chain-smoker, he lived to the ripe old age of one hundred and two.

Of all Senior John’s children, John Junior was the only one whose children continued the family work with Worcester.

His eldest son, Arthur, (born 1878) started at the Grainger factory and finally followed his uncle Walter to the Locke factory where he painted flowers, before leaving to become a decorator in glass works.

Both Annie and Kate (born 1882) are known to have worked at the Royal Worcester for a time, but it was his youngest son Harry (born in 1883) who was to become famous.

As a child, Harry was frequently ill, often in hospital and sometimes for long periods. However, when he was 13 years old, he joined his father at the Worcester factory. He learned from his father and he too painted cattle, giving them autumnal and purplish colours to make them different from his father’s.

Despite his earlier health traumas, he grew to be an imposing figure of a man, sometimes likened to the highland cattle he painted so well. Both John and Harry tended to enjoy their own company, being somewhat loners, and Harry enjoyed fishing, spending long hours at it.

Royal Worcester Highland Cattle Plates by Harry Stinton – photo by 1stDibs

Harry also exhibited his work and won medals for the National Art School. In fact, he became a well-respected watercolour painter, winning several awards. His watercolours tended to focus on his favourite highland cattle but also expanded into pastoral scenes, sheep and game birds.

He finally retired in 1963 after 67 years as a porcelain painter. He died in 1968. Many people regard him as one of the very best twentieth-century artists.

His work is very much sought after. To give you an idea, there is a set of four very ornate plates with scenic centres featuring cattle which are offered for 4,031.09 AUD and a pair of highland cattle vases dated 1937 offered for 4,591.96 AUD.

But for a little variety here is a charming watercolour by Harry Stinton dated 1911. It is 20 cms high and 28 cms wide and features a girl with chickens in front of a row of Tudor style cottages.

Harry Stinton watercolour study of cottages – photo by Philip Carrol Antiques

While the theme of cattle, game birds and scenic castles runs through the Stinton dynastic artwork, each has its own individuality, and all are a collector’s dream. It is not too hard to find items for auction at present, though this could change.

Some of the colouring is quite ethereal and very lovely to see. The Stinton family has made a huge contribution to the Royal Worcester Porcelain factories work and running through the family generation, it also makes an interesting comment of the social scene of the times.