Art nouveau, Arts and crafts
For sale is this rare piece by the Anglo / US silversmith Arthur Nevill Kirk. My research into this piece has identified fresh insight into his life and work.
The jug itself is in classic arts and craft style, with a chased frieze of stylized grapes and vine leaves to the upper body illustrating a more modernist influence. The base of the jug is fully assayed for London 1918 and carries Kirk’s CW over ANK mark. I am sure this is the exact jug that was featured, without lid, in the 1921 Studio Yearbook of Applied Art – see images. The lid to this jug is unmarked and I suspect was a later addition, undoubtedly by Kirk, in matching style and patina.
Kirk registered his CW over ANK mark on April 4 1919 (book 19, page 269, Goldsmith’s Library) and this jug represents his earliest known work. London marks ran from May to May (not calendar year) and this jug’s 1918/19 mark most likely means the mark was actually registered in order to assay this piece.
Previously unrecorded, the CW in the mark is for Charles Welch, a teacher at the Central School of Arts where Kirk was studying. He and Kirk jointly registered the mark giving the workshop address as 54 Willow Road Hampstead, Kirk’s home address. I am indebted to Goldsmith’s Company Library and Archive for their assistance with this research.
The jug also carries, in the tradition of Ramsden & Carr, the engraved text “A N KIRK ME FECIT”, with no mention of Welch. A short write-up on Welch is below, but likely he assisted Kirk as tutor in making the piece.
Arthur Nevill Kirk (1881-1958), was born in Lewes, Sussex, England. Kirk is listed in the 1901 census as an “apprentice watchmaker and jeweller” and by 1911 as “art jeweller”. Enlisted in 1915, he was discharged from the army on medical grounds in 1916, at which point he joined the London at the Central School of Arts & Crafts (1916-20) as a student, where he learnt traditional silversmithing and enamelling. It was at this time that he must have made this wine jug.
He remained at the CSAC as a renowned metalworking instructor until invited to relocate to Detroit, USA, in 1927. Kirk assumed a position at the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts where he was commissioned to produce an ecclesiastical plate for Christ Church, Cranbrook. The following year, Kirk moved his family to Cranbrook, where he turned out a variety of works while overseeing the Silver Shop associated with the early Academy of Art operation. His work can be seen in Cranbrook Art Museum. Kirk stayed at Cranbrook until the closure of his department in 1933. Thereafter he continued to teach metalwork, finishing his career at Wayne University. More information on Kirk is available at this link.
Cranbrook can perhaps best be seen as the US Bauhaus and, ‘‘was not an art school in the ordinary sense,” as Saarinen said [Eliel Saarinen, famous Finnish / US architect and key figure in Cranbrook’s history], but ‘‘a working place for creative art. The leading idea is to have artists of the highest ability live at Cranbrook and execute their work there…This rich and creative atmosphere will bring to Cranbrook young artists and art students who are eager to develop their talents…”
Charles Welch (1864-1952) qualified as a silversmith as early as 1901 (1901 census entry) and is listed as member of the 1928 Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. He spent most of his career as a “teacher of metalwork” (1911 census) at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. He seems never to have registered his own mark individually. His son Frederick Welch (1891-1941), was also a silversmith and spent most of his life teaching metalwork at the Royal College of Art.
Kirk’s work is in the collection of several museums including Cranbrook, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The jug is beautifully made and of a good gauge of silver.
Maker: Arthur Nevill Kirk
Designer: Arthur Nevill Kirk
Marks: CW ANK, London, “c”. No marks to lid
Material: Sterling silver
Size: 13.5 cm high
Weight: 348 grams, 12.3 oz