A blog about architectural tiles, terra cotta and other ceramic surfaces, architectural glass and ornamentation in and around New York.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

London Post-2

We’ve taken many taxis while in London, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the political discussions we’ve had with the cab drivers, all of whom showed a class consciousness not seen in the U.S. One issue on the drivers’ minds was the argument between a Conservative Minister, Andrew Mitchell, and the police guarding the gates to 10 Downing Street. The police asked the Minister to dismount his bike and walk it through the pedestrian gate next to the main gate, which was closed. The Minister started to curse at the police and wound up calling them “plebs”. This happened a day after two police women had been murdered in Manchester, and the police throughout the country were very security conscious, as well as being upset.No one we talked to was happy with the Minister.
Another area of discussion was our upcoming election. Romney wasn’t held in too high regard because of his diplomatic faux pas during his visit this summer. We also heard remarks about the UK’s ex-Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and George Bush which weren’t too complimentary to say the least.
But, enough about politics and back to our wanderings. On one of our few walks, we passed the Natural History Museum on the way to a restaurant named after my Great-grandmother’s sister--Garfunkel’s (only fair beef pie). The Museum has bands of colored terra cotta around its facade, as well as many terra cotta animal sculptures.

We did pass some interesting, skinny houses in the area. This one was on Thurloe Square near South Kensington Station.

We also saw a sign on the side of a building, which we hoped would lead us to an old-style, tiled butcher shop, but no such luck. Only the sign remained, and no one in the restaurant in the building knew anything about the butcher shop.

Since it was supposed to rain the next day, we postponed our trip to Oxford and went, instead, to the British Museum on Great Russell Street where we saw the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles, stripped from the Parthenon. (Of course there is the argument that the sculptures would have been in much worse shape if Lord Elgin had not removed them and shipped them to London. For some reason, though, many of the statues’ heads remained in Athens.) Again, we only saw a very small part of the collections in the British Museum, and perhaps we will be able to return.

On Monday we went to the Tate Modern, which is housed in a repurposed electrical plant, a few feet from the Millennium Bridge.
Millennium Bridge with Christopher Wren's St. Paul's Cathedral in the background
We didn’t see anything in the building that related to its history, though, but the Tate made an interesting use of its space. Many smaller rooms were dedicated to one or two artists with one to six works of each on display.
After we left the Tate, we walked over to the new Globe Theatre complex, but we were too late for a tour. We were befriended by the head of Globe’s security and his wife and wound up buying tickets for The Taming of the Shrew later in the week. The performance was excellent. The £5 “seats” were the standing area around the stage, just as it was in 1619, and it was raining on and off. We were in the covered bleachers just above the stage.

On one of our two trips to Bankside we met a mudlark. According to my Archaeology magazine, a mudlark is a person who walks along the banks of the Thames picking up artifacts. Our mudlark was a collector of animal bones and teeth. Bankside was once an entertainment area, and it had a number of bear-baiting pits and cock-fighting establishments. The detritus of these, as well as pottery and glass artifacts, can still be found preserved under the Thames mud.

The UK has been having “unusual weather” this past week--some areas have gotten a month’s rain in a day, there are gale force winds, and much flooding--causing us to delay our trips to places in the Midlands. On Tuesday we were supposed to visit the Potteries Museum in Hanley--one of the six towns that make up Stoke-on-Trent, about a 90 minute train ride from Euston Station in London. Instead we took an “on-off” bus tour of London that included a cruise down the Thames. Although I couldn’t hear much of the tour commentary, I took photos of numerous unidentified buildings, as well as a few I could identify. Two had interesting mosaic friezes:
An unidentified building with mosaic friezes
Regent House

“The distinctive mosaics along the second-floor level of the building were installed to advertise an early tenant, Dr. Antonio Salviati, who designed and manufactured mosaics. He was one of the principals responsible for the rebirth of Venetian glass after its nadir under the Austrian rule of Venice, and had British partners and a London shop. Amongst his better known works was the restoration of the mosaics in the Basilica San Marco in Venice, and the mosaics on the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park, London. Salviati also worked on some of the mosaics for St. Paul's Cathedral, London. In the world of vitreous mosaics he is one of the key players, and so the mosaics on Regent House are both nationally and internationally significant.
The designs on the fa├žade were restored in 1999, and show (from l. to r.): the arms of the City of London (white shield with a red cross and a red sword in the top-left corner), a British Royal Lion holding the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom, the arms of the City of Westminster (blue shield with a gold portcullis). By the way, Westminster is the second of the three cities that make up the heart of London, along with the Cities of London and Southwark.
The right-hand side shows a coat-of-arms I can't identify from the photo, the Lion of St. Mark over the Doge's cap, symbols of Venice, and finally the arms of the Island of Murano. Murano was and is where the Venetian glass industry is based (the glassmakers were forced to move their facilities to the island several hundred years ago to reduce the risk of fire in the city). The cities listed at the top were where the Compagni Salviati had shops.” (http://www.ifoapplestore.com/stores/regent_street.html

On Wednesday we did finally use our BritRail passes and travel to Stoke-on-Trent, a complex of six towns that had a large pottery industry. We passed many flooded fields and almost overflowing canals. After alighting in Stoke, we saw two tile murals inside the station. They are made of tube-lined majolica tiles, installed in 1994. They were made in H. & R. Johnson’s tile factory in Tunstall, and they were designed by the artist Elizabeth Kayley with the help of local children. (Lynn Pearson's Tile Gazetteer)

We took a taxi to the Potteries Museum in Hanley, which has a fairly large collection of the works of many of the 17th through 20th centuries potters from the area. The brick and terra cotta frieze over the entrance was designed by the potter/sculptor Frank Maurier and installed in 1980 and illustrates the history of the pottery industry.

Lynn Pearson’s book also mentioned a church in Hanley, St. Marks, which had remarkable ceramic altar mosaics and reredos by the Minton and Doulton Potteries. I hiked over to the church, and the caretaker unlocked it so I could take photos.

This church was built in 1834 and designed by John Oates. In the 1860s it underwent extensive alterations. The tiled floor in the Sanctuary is by Minton & Co., and has a number of memorial plaques.

A tile memorial plaque in the Sanctuary
There are three, mainly gold mosaics on the front of the altar that were given to the  church to honor its vicar in 1895, Edward Duncan Boothman.

The three mosaics and part of the Minton & Co. tiled floor
Most noteworthy, however, are the ceramic reredos--a massive Doulton terra cotta triptych by George Tinworth. The 1896 central panel, 5’ x 10’, depicts the Crucifixion. The two side panels were added in 1902. One depicts the “Visit of the Wise Men”, and the other depicts the “Visit of the Shepherds”. (Tile Gazetteer)

(These have been overpainted in gray!!!)

We have since used our BritRail passes to visit Oxford and go to the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society (TACS) tile festival in Nottingham.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

London Post-1

After a power outage at our terminal and a delay of four hours our British Airways flight left Newark at 3:00 AM. We were scheduled to arrive in Heathrow at 3 PM, September 20, thus effectively eliminating anything we would have done during the day of the 20th. Our hotel was the Kensington Rooms Hotel on Cromwell Road near the V&A Museum, one of our "to-dos". I did walk around the area of our hotel taking photos, but there was nothing of real interest until the next day when we went to the Leighton House.
Frederick Leighton (1830-1896) was a painter, traveler and collector of art and antiquities. He first exhibited a painting at the Royal Academy in 1855 which was purchased by Queen Victoria, helping to assure Leighton’s success as a painter. In 1864 he asked his friend, the architect George Aitchison, to design his house (with Leighton) on Holland Park Road.
Leighton House, 2 Holland Park Road
During his travels Leighton, who was especially interested in ceramic objects from the Middle East, collected Syrian and Turkish tiles and Iznik ceramics. These he exhibited in his house in a unique way. He created a series of three tiled rooms as you entered the house: the Staircase Hall, the Narcissus Hall and the Arab Hall. Where there were damaged or missing tiles Leighton asked his friend, William De Morgan, to repair, or make new, matching tiles. This work so interested De Morgan, that he was inspired to devise his own “Persian ware” line of ceramics.

The Arab Room

The golden frieze just below the chandelier is a Venetian glass mosaic designed by Walter Crane. Most of the tiles were from 16th and early 17th century sites in Damascus. Many were damaged, some were missing, and William De Morgan was called in to work on the room’s interior. The marble mosaic floor in the Arab Room was designed by Aitchison and made by Burke & Co.
Burke & Co. marble mosaic "rug"
After we left the Leighton House, we took a bus to Harrods. Susan remembered--from 25 years ago--that there were tile decorations in Harrods, but when we checked in Lynn Pearson’s book, Tile Gazetteer: A Guide to British Tile and Architectural Ceramics Locations, we could not find any mention of tiles there. We went anyway, and to my surprise, there were tile installations on the first floor. (We don’t know why they weren’t mentioned in Pearson’s book, which is an excellent resource for lovers of ceramics.

There were many other tile murals throughout the first floor, but I have no idea when they were made, or by whom, or when they were installed.

The next day we visited the Victoria and Albert Museum. Captain Francis Fowke designed the South Kensington Museum (the V&A), and construction began in 1860 and continued through 1872. The facade over the main entrance used glazed ceramics on a large scale. "Topping its prominent pediment is a terracotta putto designed by [James] Gamble; the two other high-level sculptural groups were designed and modelled by Percival Ball of Doulton's...  Beneath the terracotta cornice is a ceramic mosaic commemorating the 1851 Exhibition by Rueben Townroe... ." (Lynn Pearson,Tile Gazetteer: A Guide to British Tile and Architectural Ceramics Locations, Richard Dennis, 2005, p. 224)

We visited the new ceramics study halls on the sixth floor--like those at the Brooklyn Museum and the Met.

Japanese dish, 1875

Mogul tiles

Tiles made by Poole Potteries, 1937-39, for the London Underground
"Ploughing" designed by Walter Crane and made by MAW & Company, c. 1889

"Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary...", made by Doulton, c. 1900

Floral panel made at de Morgan Pottery, designed by William Morris on blanks from the Architectural Pottery Company, Poole, Dorset, 1876

Tile panel by Bernard Leach
We only saw a very small part of the V&A's collections, and we hope to return before leaving London.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Brooklyn's International Tile Company

(Since I will be leaving shortly for a vacation in England, which will include tours of the pottery and tile manufacturing districts and a national tile festival, I thought a post about the only U.S. art tile company organized and owned by the British would be appropriate.)

92 Third Street, Brooklyn. The building/plant built by the International Tile Company, c. 1883.

     In February 1883 the International Tile Company was organized in New York State, and by late 1883 was producing English-type transfer tiles and molded relief and encaustic tiles at 92 Third Street, Brooklyn--near the Gowanus Canal, where raw materials could easily be off-loaded and tiles could be shipped. According to decorative arts historian Susan Padwee, “...the International Tile Company...was an anomoly.  I.T.C. was the only company organised and financed in England." I.T.C. was organized by sons of the Irish and English nobility, and was the first U.S. company to produce English-style transfer tiles for U.S. consumption. "According to Fred H. Wilde, an English ceramist who worked for I.T.C. for about a year, ‘all presses, dies, and special machinery were brought from England. Many of the workers (all department heads) were brought over, including a printer and engraver’ [needed for transfer tile production]." (Susan Ingham Padwee, “The International Tile Company” in Glazed Expressions, No. 38, Spring 1999, p. 5, http://tileresearcharticles.omeka.net/items/show/20--just scroll down the page and click on the pdf file)  One of I.T.C.'s English artists, for instance, was Samuel Jenks whom the Minton Archives list as born about 1856. Jenks was a student at the Newcastle School of Art in the 1860s.  He was also an apprentice painter/gilder at the Minton China Works from 1870 to 1877. Jenks left Brooklyn NY and appeared in the Fitzgerald's Trenton NJ Directory 1887-1889. From New Jersey he went to Ohio where he died at age 58. (Email from Carol Jenks Apperson to Susan Padwee, 2 Aug 2010, "Re: Samuel Jenks")                           

Two handpainted ITC fireplace panels
     By 1886 the English owners sold the I.T.C. to the owners of the Arbuckle Coffee Company. Although the tile company remained in buisness until about 1891, when its plant was taken over by the New York Vitrified Tile Company, it is possible that I.T.C. did not produce many art tiles after the British left. (Susan Ingham Padwee, p. 6) Thus, the years of art tile production at the International Tile Company were few, indeed. Only between 125 and 150 distinct tile designs are known for this company; no exterior tile installations are known, and few interior art tile installations--such as fireplace surrounds--are known to still exist.
The New York Cancer Hospital, 1885 lithograph

        In New York City we know of one building that used I.T.C. colored wall tiles along with those of other companies--the New York Cancer Hospital on West 106th Street and Central Park West, which was built in 1885. I was in that building a few years ago when Olde Good Things Architectural Salvage was taking up the hospital chapel’s encaustic tile floor (made up of Minton tiles) as part of a renovation. I walked around the building checking to see what other tiles had been used and found the I.T.C. tiles. The New York Cancer Hospital was “The first U.S. hospital to specialize in cancer in an age when the disease...[was] considered incurable...[, and it would] be renamed the General Memorial Hospital for the Treatment of Cancer and Allied Diseases in 1899 and innovate [the] use of circular wards to avoid corners that...[were] thought to accumulate dirt and stagnant air… .” (James Trager, The New York Chronology: The Ultimate Compendium of Events, People, and Anecdotes from the Dutch to the Present, p. 206) The hospital has been re-purposed without the tiles and is now condominiums. The cancer hospital moved long ago to York Avenue (Memorial-Sloan-Kettering).

     The ads for the Inter-national Tile Company promote its encaustic, majolica, enamelled, decorated glazed and hand-painted tiles. In the ads the company owners, such as John W. Ivery, claimed to have won medals in European exhibitions during the 1870s. “Of the organisers of I.T.C., it appears that only John W. Ivery had previous experience as a manufacturer of ceramics. He had been employed by the ‘Albion Blue Brick & Tile Works’, a company probably owned by his father. The firm was located in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, and produced blue terra-metallic building and fancy bricks, mouldings, coping, foot-path paving bricks, grooved stable floor bricks, vases, and trusses, but no decorated tiles. John W. Ivery apparently had no working knowledge of decorated tile manufacture prior to the founding of I.T.C.” (Susan Ingham Padwee, p. 5--a much more detailed discussion of the organization and products of the I.T. Co. can be found in Ms. Padwee’s thesis, THE INTERNATIONAL TILE COMPANY: ECONOMIC, SANITARY, SOCIAL, AND AESTHETIC ISSUES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE AMERICAN TILE INDUSTRY, Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Arts in the History of the Decorative Arts Masters Program in the History of the Decorative Arts Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and Parsons School of Design, 1999. Included in this thesis is a catalog of all known IT Co. tiles)

I.T.C. fireplace in Brooklyn
     The International Tile Company installations we know about are tiles installed in furniture and fireplace surrounds. The fireplace above is composed of a series of 6” square dragon and grotesque heads tiles produced by the I.T. Company. This fireplace is currently located in Park Slope, Brooklyn, but we also know of another similar fireplace surround that was installed in the DeVilbiss residence in Toledo, Ohio until the house was demolished. (DeVilbiss was the inventor of the DeVilbiss medical/perfume atomizer.)
An oak hall table with ITC's series of high relief pitcher tiles. This, also, was originally installed in a Brooklyn house. (Collection of Susan Padwee)
The Main Hall fireplace in the Reynolds Mansion B&B. The "Ideal Heads" tiles are from two series of tiles produced by the I.T.C. Photos courtesy of the Reynolds Mansion B&B inkeepers, Tricia and Mike Andriaccio.

        A B&B in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, the Reynolds Mansion, has 13 tiled fireplaces, at least four of which have IT Co. tile surrounds. Except for one fireplace surround in Buffalo, New York and one in Brooklyn, these are the only known, existing IT Co. installations.
The living room fireplace in the Reynolds Mansion B&B. There are a variety of tile series here: "ideal heads", plants and pitchers. The hearth tiles may also be ITC tiles. 
        A spa and B&B in Westminster, Maryland, the historic and recently renovated Roops Mill, had I.T.C., Mintons, and J. & J.G. Low tiles installed in one building during a Victorian era renovation. These tiles were found in a box in the grist mill according to Ricki Chaikin of Reclaimed Relics, LLC, and were featured on a National Geographic "Abandoned" cable TV episode. Some of the dragon and grotesque heads tiles pictured above were tiles that were found uninstalled.
Roops Mill (photo from http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/abandoned/articles/facts-maryland-grist-mill/)

        In 1887 the minister of Brooklyn's Plymouth Congregational Church, Henry Ward Beecher, died. Henry Ward Beecher, the brother of world-famous author Harriet Beecher Stowe, was a staunch abolitionist prior to the Civil War, as well as a "social reformer, novelist, essayist and speaker. ...Beecher was also the editor for publications including The Independent and Christian Union. Beecher was...the author of many pamphlets and books that left a lasting mark on the American psyche. This work included Eyes and Ears, Summer in the Soul, Prayers from the Plymouth Pulpit, Norwood, or Village Life in New England, Life of Jesus Christ, Yale Lectures on Preaching, and Evolution and Religion. ...Beecher was very concerned about the spread of slavery into the territories. He used his pulpit as the means of disseminating his abolitionist views. After the Kansas-Nebraska Act replaced the Missouri Compromise, ...Beecher further inflamed the tense situation by sending arms shipments to the partisans he supported." During the Civil War "Henry Ward Beecher demanded that President Abraham Lincoln emancipate all slaves through executive order. After the Union forces retook Fort Sumter in 1865, Lincoln selected Beecher to speak to commemorate the event. Beecher, at that time, was so popular he was viewed as second only to Lincoln in shaping the post-war American identity." (http://www.egs.edu/library/henry-ward-beecher/biography/
        ITC produced a commemorative tile to honor Beecher. “This tile was produced by a technique 
Tile courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum of Art
known in the nineteenth century as a photoceramic process, patented in Britain in 1886 by Denis Lawless, one of I T C’s stockholders.” (Susan Ingham Padwee, The International Tile Company Catalogue, p. 117 in her thesis, The International Tile Company: Economic, Sanitary, Social, and Aesthetic issues in the development of the American Tile Industry)
         "The proprietors of ITC had come to America expecting to find a receptive market for their high-style English transfer printed tiles. Struggling to compete with the extensive American sales networks of the better-known British tile makers, ITC expanded its tile line, and following the example of the Low Art Tile Works [of Chelsea, Massachusetts], began to manufacture relief tiles. Although ITC quality was inconsistent, their best tiles, like the Ages of Man series, rivaled those produced by Low." ("Catalogue Addenda", pp. 5-6 in Ms. Padwee's thesis)
ITC's 6"square "Fall" tile and Low's Art Tile Works' 4 1/4"D "Winter" stovetile. These designs were taken from sculptures by Bertel Thorvaldsen.
        Bertel Thorvaldsen (1777-1844) was born "to poor parents. His father was a carver and immigrant from Iceland. His mother was the daughter of a parish clerk at the village of Lemvig. The young Bertel entered the Art Academy in Copenhagen at the young age of 11 with an unusually bright talent and was educated here as a sculptor until 1793. In 1796 he got the opportunity of travelling to Rome as the Academy’s scholar for three years to be further educated. But he stayed in Rome, received numerous orders and became one of Europe’s best known artists." The early 1800s when Thorvaldsen first became famous, was a time "...close to the French Revolution and the thoughts of new times with freedom, equality and brotherhood for all. ...Art and life were once again to be inspired by Roman and Greek Antiquity, e.g. Classical Antiquity and Classical art. ...Thorvaldsen was early on and artistically very convincingly able to express this fusion between Classical art and the ideals of his time." (http://www.thorvaldsensmuseum.dk/en/themuseum/thorvaldsen)

The dining room fireplace in the Reynolds Mansion B&B, Bellefonte, PA includes three of four of ITC's Thorvaldsen "Ages of Man" tiles, as well as tiles with geometric and plant motifs.

        According to Ms. Padwee, a Rev. W.H. Ford, in a paper presented at the Rembrandt Club on Oct. 6, 1884--“Decorative Tiles, Past and Present”, based upon information supplied by John Ivery--related that the ITC designer, “a Dane, Mr. Otto, was a pupil of Thorvaldsen’s… .” ("Catalogue Addenda", pp. 5-6 in Ms. Padwee's thesis) It is, thus, possible that Mr. Otto was the modeler of ITC’s high-relief “Ages of Man” series. (An internet search, however, could not further identify “Mr. Otto”.)

        In the 1890s other U.S. tile companies began to produce transfer tiles. At least one company--the American Encaustic Tiling Company--used some of the same transfer designs as I.T.C. "It is not known if AET purchased the transfer plates from International when International went out of business or copied the design, or both companies purchased their plates from the same source.  It is also possible that many popular transfer tile designs and relief tile molds were taken by workmen, designers and artists who moved from one tile company to another." (Michael Padwee, "The Identification of Antique United States Ceramic Tiles", https://sites.google.com/site/tileinstallationdbal/main_page/the-identification-of-antique-united-states-ceramic-tiles)

An advertising tile paperweight for Binet Champagne attributed to I.T.C. This tile is located in the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, NY. The Museum, however, would not allow me to view the back markings on the tile to confirm the museum's attribution, nor has the Everson answered my request for information about the tile, or for an image of the tile's markings, if any. Photo courtesy of Michael Padwee.
        "Tiles produced by ITC, like those made by other small regional manufacturers, helped to make the fashion for tiles accessible to less affluent consumers and contributed to the development of an American taste that was distinct from the English style. But, although American tile manufacturers proclaimed that their relief tiles were ‘an entirely new product,’ it was not until the Arts and Crafts movement more than a decade later, that taste and design evolved at companies like Grueby and Rookwood and tiles were produced that were uniquely American.” (From notes made by Ms. Padwee for a lecture at the Victorian Society in New York City in November 2001)

A cast iron fireback marked "INTERNATIONAL TILE CO. BROOKLYN. N.Y.", which was probably made for the I.T.C. locally. The side sections are 29"H x 14"W; the middle section is 30"H x 26.5"W. (Collection of Susan Padwee)

Susan Ingham Padwee's article about the International Tile Company may be downloaded for individual, educational use from: http://tileresearcharticles.omeka.net/items/show/20 (just scroll down to "Files" and click on the pdf document). In addition, some photos of ITC tiles from her collection may be viewed on George Landow's award-winning website, "The Victorian Web": http://www.victorianweb.org/art/design/ceramics/tiles/it.html.