It is indeed an arduous task to try and re-assemble something long after the event, but for many years I have been trying to find out as much as possible about the early figure painting department at Burslem. The changes these early artists must have witnessed and the speed at which they occurred must have been mind blowing.
One artist whose monogram appears time and again on the bases of figures from the 1920-40’s is Eric Webster, born in 1896. Eric retired from Doultons in December 1962 and the last remaining link to what was known as the ‘Noke’ school of artists was lost. Originally engaged by John Slater, the first Art Director at Burslem, Eric served most of his years under the guidance of Charles J. Noke who succeeded John Slater as Art Director.
Eric at work 14th October 1953
Eric was born and bred in the potteries and attended the Tunstall School of Art. When he arrived at Doultons he was engaged with painting plates and vases, and although a versatile artist – landscapes were a preferred theme. As the Doulton archive itself describes, around the time of the First World War, C. J. Noke began introducing ‘small pieces of sculpture in the shape of Victorian type figures and small animal models.’ This was of course the launch of the now famous HN collection and Eric together with Harry and Charles Nixon were the first three to be engaged in the decoration of the figures and animals. Eric being principally involved in the latter’s decoration. Incidentally the HN numbers we all know originated from the initials for Harry Nixon, just mentioned. However, Eric must have been prolific painter as his monogram is readily found on figures too from the 1930’s.
There were many high points to his long career with Doulton. Notably the painting of the first Championship Dog model ‘Lucky Star of Ware’ and later the model of the present Queen’s horse Monaveen, that was produced for her visit to the Doulton premises in Burslem, when still a princess in 1949 (see the video link already posted for actual footage of this famous visit). Eric reportedly visited the stables to take sketches in colour so as to ensure accuracy in the actual painting.
A publicity shot of Monaveen, not available to purchase
Animal painting was clearly a forté of his and it was no surprise in ca. 1925 that he was entrusted to take charge of a newly created department responsible for animal painting.
In his later career, Eric was responsible for painting prestige pieces, which were made to order. Here he is seen collecting a cheque and gifts from his friends at Doulton, including a naturalistic fox painted by himself!
Eric at his retirement presentation, holding the large fox model
If you look at the bases of your figures and early animals check for an ‘EW’ or ‘EAW’ and that is our man!