Rediscovery: The decorative arts

200 years of design history in ceramics, furniture, textiles, decorative tiles, embroidery, illustrations and glass from the decorative arts collection. The artists, designers and craft makers featured include: Vanessa Bell, Dora Carrington, William De Morgan, Christopher Dresser, Duncan Grant, Bernard Leech, AWN Pugin and Lucie Rie. Also kindly on loan from the Crafts Council, a ceramic piece by Grayson Perry, who studied at Portsmouth Art College.

Mad Kid’s Bedroom Wall Pot, Grayson Perry, 1996. Crafts Council Collection: P442. Photo: Todd-White Art Photography.

Decorative Arts Society grant

In September 2017, Portsmouth Museum was awarded a Collections Access Grant by the Decorative Arts Society for the professional photography of sixty-three pieces of ceramics and decorative art objects.

These pieces originally formed part of a much larger pioneering collection put together by Charles and Lavinia Handley-Read who, following a visit to an exhibition of Victorian and Edwardian decorative arts at the V&A in 1952, were inspired to start their own collection. In 1971 the Handley-Reads had gained such a reputation in the decorative art world their entire collection was put on display at the Royal Academy. Unfortunately, Charles and Lavinia did not live to see it; Charles committed suicide in October 1971, shortly followed by Lavinia in December the same year. In the following year their vast collection of objects was sold to museums and private collectors, which is when Portsmouth Museum acquired the sixty-three pieces for its permanent collection.

These objects represent the highest quality in glazing and lustre techniques, along with fine examples of Parian porcelain and rare, hand-painted tiles. Shown here is a piece of Minton Parianware sculpture from around 1850 titled Amazon, after the bronze by French artist Jean-Jacques Feuchère (1807-52). Other manufacturers, designers and artists represented in this group include William de Morgan, the Martin Brothers, Christopher Dresser, Walter Crane, Pilkington and Sir Edmund Elton. The majority of the Handley-Read pieces that belong in the museum collection are now on permanent display in the decorative art gallery, and will eventually be online here to enjoy.

Susan Ward, Curator of Art, said: "We are thrilled to have been awarded this grant which will not only provide continued access to the Handley-Read collection but will hopefully encourage research, greater awareness of the decorative arts in Portsmouth and raise the national profile of the museum."

Amazon, designed by Jean Jacques Feuchère for Minton, c.1850. ©Portsmouth Museums and Visitor Services