The Open Art Fair in today’s FT

Delighted that The Open Art Fair chose to feature the Peartree Collection’s own Christopher Dresser teapot in today’s FT. Image attached.

Quote of the day

Shirley Mueller, a US neuroscientist and collector, has written in today’s ATG “Collecting gives meaning to life [sorry kids] and gives life a spark, in contrast to the day to day drudgery of life. It encapsulates the thrill of the chase and is overall a very pleasant experience. I believe collectors are lucky. We have a passion that drives us”. Never a truer word said.

New letter by Archibald Knox uncovered

Whilst trawling through the British Newspaper Archives (as you do on a dull day over Christmas), I found an unlikely letter in the London Evening Standard written by the one and only Archibald Knox, whilst still in the Isle of Man, dating to 1893. The letter concerns Knox’s regret, even anger, at the demise of the main Peel Cathedral, a theme that was a constant throughout his life. Whilst it is hard to square Knox’s modernist design brilliance with his traditional faith, he clearly found no contradiction whatsoever in the two, an area worthy of more research.

Rare modernist Christopher Dresser tea set listed

If you were ever in doubt that Christopher Dresser was a “rock-star” of the decorative arts, see this link for further details on Christies’ recent sale of a plated teapot by Dresser for nearly $400,000. I am delighted to list an entire tea set by Dresser, and in sterling silver, at a fraction of that price. A bargain!

Norman and Ernest Spittle uncovered

The purchase of a lovely sterling silver teapot marked for N&E Spittle ((Norman and Ernest) set me on the trail of this relatively obscure partnership, mostly known for their copper and bronze lighting and metalwork. It seems their important history has been in part obscured by the early death of Norman and subsequent company name changes. They nevertheless were highly influential on Gustav Stickley’s metalwork in the US, and produced fittings for some of Britain’s most modern buildings in the period 1900-14.

Items returned to descendants

It’s been an unusual and rewarding two days. First, the Collection’s Milon Andreewitch plaque has been acquired by family descendants wishing to obtain a great example of their ancestor’s brilliant but limited works. And then today the Collection’s lovely Bertha Inglis spoons have been bought by a family member, also wanting to celebrate and remember their ancestor. To reunite pieces sold c 100 years ago is really very touching – and great testimony to the power of the internet too.

In praise of buckles

I have about twelve buckles for sale in the Collection (excluding those sold) and have just added two absolutely excellent ones by Liberty and Anton Michelsen. It is fair to say they are not terribly practical objects, although I know a very elegant lady who frequently sports an Oliver Baker buckle to great effect. They are however perfect examples of the era, usually encapsulating some of the best, most creative designs of the period and often mixing silver with stones and enamel. If you want to create a vibrant, small, and relatively affordable collection of arts and crafts silverware, I commend them to you.

As a footnote I am delighted to have recently assisted in the sale of a very rare and valuable Georg Jensen dragonfly buckle, more information here

New items added by Charles Ashbee for the Guild of Handicraft

I have just listed several new items by Charles Ashbee, bought privately and with direct provenance back to the Guild of Handicraft in 1900. Despite my ambivalence towards silver plate, I am particularly taken by a really beautiful pair of vegetable dishes listed here

The pieces have direct provenance to Arthur Currer Briggs who acquired the pieces in c. 1900. Briggs was an outstanding patron of the arts and crafts and besides purchasing items from Ashbee and supporting the major Leeds Arts and Crafts Exhibitions, he commissioned one of Voysey’s most important houses Broad Leys on Lake Windermere.