ROYAL DOULTON AT INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITIONS

by

Katharine Ellis

(First published in “Gallery” - The Royal Doulton Collectors Club Magazine - Spring 1992)


This year, the city of Seville in Southern Spain is hosting EXPO ’92, and Royal Doulton is one of the major sponsors of the British Pavilion. But what is an “Expo”? Well, Expo is the short term for a Universal Exhibition, the highest ranking of international exhibitions. “Universal” in the context of an Expo relates to the universality of the exhibition theme rather than to the number of participating nations, and the aim of any Expo is to provide an historic overview of all aspects of human endeavour illustrative of that theme. The theme of EXPO ’92 is well suited to the city of Seville, from which , in 1492, Christopher Columbus set out across the ocean. EXPO ’92 will be a celebration of all that man has achieved since the fifteenth century, but it will also provide an insight into future technological developments.

The first Universal Exhibition took place in London in 1851. The Great Exhibition, as it was named, was a showcase of Victorian prosperity generated by the Industrial Revolution. The Crystal Palace, which housed the exhibition, was itself a symbol of the advances in technology that were being made at the time.

The idea of giving awards for products displayed at an exhibition has its origins even earlier, in France of the late eighteenth century, when prizes began to be awarded to exhibitors at Bazaars. However, in spite of great efforts by the French Minister for Agriculture and Commerce, Monsieur Buffet, in 1849, France was unable to gain support for an International Exposition. So it was that Prince Albert encouraged Great Britain in its own bid for a Universal Exhibition, in a speech which he delivered at a banquet given by the Lord Mayor of London at the Parliamentary Session of 1849: “The Exhibition of 1851 would afford a true test of the point of development at which the whole of mankind has arrived in this great task, and a new starting point from which all nations would be able to direct their further exertions”.

Universal expositions not only give nations the opportunity to show the world a people’s artistic and industrial achievements, but they also act as a stimulus to individual companies to develop new as well as existing products. Exhibitions have often been the launching pad for new products for Royal Doulton, and the stimuli for new developments.

At the 1851 Great Exhibition, Doulton and Watts exhibited mostly stoneware pieces of a utilitarian nature. However, the Art Journal Catalogue for the Exhibition illustrates a series of white terracotta vases made by the company and makes the following comment: “This column is devoted to a series of Vases, executed in white terracotta, by Doulton and Watt, of Lambeth, whose attention has only recently been directed to objects of an artistic character, those we have engraved may be regarded as a prelude to further success, which increased experience must insure”. The vases on display at the 1851 Exhibition were certainly forerunners of the salt-glaze stoneware pieces which were to be developed at Doulton’s Lambeth Art Pottery from the 1880’s.

The first piece of Doulton Ware, as it came to be known, to be displayed at exhibition was a salt-cellar which appeared at the London Exhibition of 1862. The piece lacked colour and detail, as did the thirty vases, mugs and pots exhibited at the 1867 Paris Exhibition. However, the modest display in Paris encouraged Henry Doulton to make greater efforts, and with the help of John Sparkes of the Lambeth School of Art, a substantial display of pots was prepared for the International Exhibition of 1872 held in Kensington. The Doulton Ware impressed both the art critics and the public. Queen Victoria noticed the new ware and ordered pieces to be sent to Windsor. Thus began a long and continuing relationship between the company and the Royal Family.

By 1876, the year of the Philadelphia Exhibition, great strides had been made in the development of Doulton Ware. Nearly, 1,500 pieces were shown at the Exhibition, including several impressive works in terracotta by George Tinworth. Doulton received five first class awards and the Exhibition marked the start of a close relationship between the company and the North American market.

After the Paris Exhibition in 1878, Doulton was awarded the Grand Prix - the highest honour ever granted to any pottery. This was further proof, if it was needed, of the success of Doulton Ware. The first examples of pƒte-sur-pƒte painting on Doulton stoneware were shown at the Paris Exhibition.. Experiments in this technique had been going on for a year or two before the Exposition and among the first artists to master the art of applying several layers of slip to the stoneware body to achieve a slightly raised design were Eliza Banks, Florence Barlow and Eliza Simmance. Henry Doulton’s own personal contribution to the success of Doulton Wares and to the Pottery Industry was recognised by the French government who, following the Paris Exhibition, bestowed upon him the title of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.

Over the next fifteen years Doulton exhibited its wares at many International Exhibitions from Jamaica to Calcutta. Three International Exhibitions took place in Britain during this period - at Liverpool in 1886, Manchester in 1887 and Glasgow in 1888. The Liverpool Exhibition was opened by queen Victoria. During her visit to the Doulton Pavilion, she watched a vase being thrown upon the wheel, and then decorated on the spot by Arthur Pearce. The finished piece was later presented to the Queen. So impressed was she with her vase that, on knighting Henry Doulton in 1887, she commented on her pleasure at having seen the process of manufacture at the Liverpool Exhibition.

Sir Philip Cunliffe-Owen, the then director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, described Doulton’s display at the World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893 as “Henry Doulton’s Greatest Triumph”. At this exhibition, in addition to the pieces from the Lambeth Studios, magnificent bone china produced by Doulton’s new studio at Burslem was shown to the world. The Art Studios spent eighteen months producing the most spectacular pieces, each new in shape, design and decoration and unlike anything hitherto seen. Among the beautiful pieces on display were several large vases in the Renaissance style, richly painted by artists from the Burslem Studio including Hancock, White, Wilson, Piper and Mitchell. The Columbus Vase, painted by the French artist Labarre, Stood nearly six feet high. It was surmounted by a figure of the great navigator, who has now also inspired the creation of the new Columbus figure which is to be displayed at EXPO ’92. Other outstanding exhibits included the Dante and Diana vases - the latter surmounted by a figure of the god Jupiter. These pieces were all modelled by Charles Noke and demonstrated his genius to the world.

It was at this exhibition too that Noke’s first collection of independent free-standing figures was shown. These figures were made in a parian body and tinted an ivory or vellum shade. The early Noke figures did not appear to be very popular with collectors at the time, possibly because they seemed pale in colour when compared with the gay contemporary figures produced in France and Germany. Nevertheless, these early figures marked an important stage in the revival of the art of Staffordshire figure making by Royal Doulton.

Doulton took seven of the highest awards in Chicago - the largest number granted to any pottery firm. If there were any doubts remaining about the success of the Doulton Burslem works as an Art Pottery and a business, they were quickly dispelled by the exhibits at Chicago.

The Burslem Pottery was to go from strength to strength. In the late 1890’s Slater, Noke and other artists in the Burslem Studio set about trying to recreate the glaze effects used by the ancient Chinese master-potters. In particular, they wished to produce the vivid lustrous red glaze, often splashed, streaked or mottled with blue, turquoise, yellow green and grey, to which French collectors of Chinese pottery had given the generic title Flamb

By 1904, the year of the St. Louis Exhibition in the USA, after much experimentation and trial and error, the new Royal Doulton flamb wares were ready to be shown to the public. The collection was received with much acclaim and Royal Doulton won thirty medals, including the Grand Prix and four gold medals.

By the early years of the 20th century the fashion for elaborate exhibitions had waned. Nevertheless, smaller events were held in London in the 1920’s, at which Royal Doulton continued to exhibit examples of its tableware and giftware. In 1951 the Festival of Britain was held to celebrate the centenary of the Great Exhibition. Although this event was only national in character, it set the scene for the revival of International Exhibitions.

At the Brussels International Exhibition in 1958, Royal Doulton won the Grand Prix, the highest award granted in the ceramic section. The centrepiece of the Royal Doulton stand was a figure entitled The Marriage of Art and Industry by Peggy Davies to a design by Jo Ledger, this figure symbolises the arts and sciences and the relationship between them which is such an important tradition in the history of Royal Doulton..

For EXPO ’92 Royal Doulton produced a variety of special pieces. Mantilla, designed by Eric Griffiths and originally part of the Haute Ensemble range, is to be reissued in a limited edition of 1,992 pieces. To celebrate the discovery of the Americas by Columbus, a limited edition figure of the great navigator has been created. In addition , a specially-created statue, Discovery, modelled by Angela Munslow, a student at the Sir Henry Doulton School of Sculpture, will stand in the reception area of the British Pavilion. The Collectors Club’s specially commissioned small size character jug of Christopher Columbus will also be on display in the British Pavilion.

Royal Doulton is very proud to be the official supplier of tableware to the dining areas in the British Pavilion. Moreover, Royal Doulton will also be providing tableware for the food halls around the EXPO site. Souvenir pieces bearing the colourful EXPO ’92 logo will be available from the shops at the event.


Principal Exhibitions in which Royal Doulton has participated and awards won.


1851 Great Exhibition, London. First Class Medal for Stoneware.

1862 Kensington, London. Only Medal for Drainpipes.

1867 Paris. Only Medal for Drainpipes.

1869 Amsterdam. Extraordinary Mention.

1871/2 London. Honourable Mention.

1873 Vienna. Five Medals for Progress.

1876 Philadelphia. Five First Class Awards.

1877 Cape Town. Gold Medal and Diploma.

1878 Paris. Diploma of Honour and six Medals.

1879 Sydney. Four First Class Awards.

1880 Melbourne. One Gold Medal and eight Silver Medals.

1883 Amsterdam. Two Diplomas and the Highest Award by ‘Acclamation’.

1883/4 Nice. Three Diplomas of Honour.

Calcutta. Three Gold Medals, Three Silver Medals and four Bronze Medals.

1884 Paris Exhibition of Decorative Arts. Hors Concours.

1884 London Health Exhibition. Ten Gold Medals, fifteen Silver Medals

and five Bronze Medals.

1886 London Indian and Colonial. A Commemorative Medal and Diploma.

1886 Liverpool. Three Gold Medals for Sanitary Appliances

and Art Pottery.

1886 Edinburgh. One Gold Medal, two Silver Medals and three Bronze Medals.

1887 Manchester. Two Medals.

1887 Newcastle. One Gold Medal, two Silver Medals

and one Bronze Medal.

1888 Glasgow.

1888 Melbourne. One First Class Award and one Second Class Award.

1889 Paris. Grand Prix, two Gold Medals and one Bronze Medal.

1891 Jamaica. Two Diplomas of Honour.

1892 Tasmania. First Class Award.

1893 Algiers. Diploma of Honour and Gold Medal

1893 Chicago. Seven of the highest awards, largest number to any firm of potters in the world.

1894 Liverpool. Two awards.

1895 Belfast. Two Gold Medals.

1895 Californian International Exposition. Medal and Diploma of Honour.

1900 Paris. Hors concours.

1901 Antwerp. Grand Prix.

1901 Glasgow. Three Diplomas.

1904 St. Louis. Grand Prix, four Gold Medals and twenty three Bronze Medals.

1906/7 Christchurch.

1910 Brussels.

1911 Turin.

1913 Ghent.

1920 British Industries Fair, London.

1924 British Empire Exhibition, London.

1935 Royal Academy Exhibition of British Art

in Industry. London.

1951 Festival of Britain.

1958 Brussels International Exhibition. Grand Prix.

1967 Montreal International Exhibition. Canada.

1970 Osaka Universal Exhibition. Japan.

The Group would like to thank Val Baynton of Royal Doulton for permission to reprint this article.

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   © Exhibition Study Group 1998