Saturday, 19 July 2008

A visit to Mr Willett's Popular Pottery

Last week I was in Brighton for work but I made sure I had some time to call into the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery to visit a favourite of mine - the Willett Gallery, which is also fondly known as Mr Willett's Popular Pottery.
This is a small gallery space tucked in on the right hand side as you enter the main Art gallery, and houses the Willettt Collection of English ceramics.

Henry Willett's collection of English ceramics offers a unique view of British history. In this gallery 700 figures, vessels, plates and tiles from 1600-1900 are grouped in 23 themes reflecting political and social history. Henry Willett collected ceramics in order to tell the history of the British people and gave his collection as a gift to Brighton in 1903.
I love English ceramics and seeing pieces that sat on mantlepieces over the years. The Staffordshire figures whether of cows, spaniels or a newly married couple are really super. I have seen images of them in so many of the prints that I show, where printmakers have been drawn to the nostalgia of these English ceramics.
The artists Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious and their circle all have Staffordshire figures in their work. The printmaker Robert Tavener shows two Staffordshire spaniels on the mantlepiece in an early lithograph "Red Nursery", the same two Staffordshire spaniels that sat on the mantlepiece in his own living room.

The great thing about this really wonderful collection is that it is always there, quietly waiting for visitors, and it is free. It is beautifully displayed and a real pleasure and Brighton are very lucky to have it. It is just next door to the Corn Exchange, the venue for Brighton Art Fair, so if exhibiting or visiting maybe find a few minutes and go and see the Willett Gallery.

For Willett Collection see Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
For original prints see Emma Mason British Prints
Tel. 07944 535354

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