Friday, 30 January 2009

Dorothy Doughty’s wonderful Worcester birds

First it was Springwatch, then it was a trip to Llyn Crafnant, the dramatic yet tranquil lake in Snowdonia National Park. We have caught the bird-watching bug - seeing three woodpeckers at the same time, presumably mum, dad and chick, was what clinched it.

Then these two characters turned up. According to the auctioneer, they are pre-production prototype figures modelled by Dorothy Doughty (1892-1962) and manufactured by Royal Worcester.

They are highly sought after by collectors, particularly those in America and with names like Mockingbird and Peach Blossom and Chickadee and Larch, that's hardly surprising.

They were issued in limited editions: 500 Mockingbirds in 1940 and 325 Chickadees in 1938 and they fetch appreciable sums. These prototypes, which exist presumably in even smaller numbers, are expected to sell for up to £3,000 apiece.

But it's Dorothy who interests me most. She was clearly a kindred spirit. She's also one of the finest modellers of birds and wildlife of all time.

She was born in Italy, daughter of the explorer and poet Charles Doughty, but came to England as a girl with her father and sister Freda. She studied at

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Thursday, 29 January 2009

Pugin and Herdman – two Victorian greats

Funny how things come full circle, isn’t it? With an increase in knowledge and improved communications, the antiques industry is replete with remarkable discoveries that serve only to make the hobby of collecting even more compelling.

See a slideshow of Hardman of Birmingham images

Take the silver toast rack pictured here. It turned up in an auction in Australia where specialists rightly believed it was designed by that master of gothic, A.W.N. Pugin. But in the absence of any documentary evidence, they couldn’t prove it.

In the course of their research, the auctioneers turned to one of Pugin’s suppliers, the Birmingham-based John Hardman & Co.

Founded in 1838, it was Hardman who created much of the Pugin-designed furnishings,

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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

I love linocuts by Cyril Power and Sybil Andrews


Linoleum – once every home had at least one floor covered with it – is hardly the medium  associated with striking images like the ones illustrated here.

You’ll have to take my word for it, though: without

the muddy mixture of ground cork, solidified linseed oil and rosin rolled onto a coarse canvas backing – it was patented by its

English inventor Frederick Walton in 1860 – the prints might never have been conceived.

I remember making linocut prints in school art lessons (they were pathetic) but no one knows precisely when serious artists hit on the idea.

Theoretically, it could have started from the date of its invention, but apparently,

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