An interesting booklet ca.1949 explaining how The Potter is assembled using 15 different parts!
With so many collectors of Doulton’s famous Bunnykins nursery ware out there, it is hardly a surprise that it reamins a popular line to this day. Originally created by Barbara Vernon (she took her mother’s surname when she became a nun) in 1934 and famous patrons of this ware have helped perpetuate its success.
An example of an early pen-and-watercolour illustration by Barbara Vernon (1930)
In 1937, the late Queen Mother first saw examples of Bunnykins and since then it has been a regular in Royal nurseries around the world. Interestingly, Barbara was actually the daughter of Cuthbert Bailey, the manager of Doulton’s Burslem factory and hence the Doulton connection.
Examples of nurseryware and the rare Billy Bunnyking
Due to failing eyesight Barbara’s creations for Doulton curtailed in the late 1940’s and Walter Hayward took up the reigns and designs of this most famous nuersery ware continue even to this day. At the most recent Doulton fair here in the UK, once again there was a special limited edition piece, a Bunnykins figure commissioned by Ceramics International for the event and of course it was another sell out!
Bunnykins figures being decorated
Here you can see a picture of the various backstamps used on Bunnykins over the years. Of interest to collectors of nurseryware itself are the signed pieces by Barbara Vernon. Walter Hayward, rather than use a facsimilie signature used a mouse to indicate his designs.
Examples of Bunnykins nurseryware backstamps
The range of early Bunnykins figures are charming with their doleful eyes and there is an early range of tableware with modelled heads to compliment these figures. These modelled pieces of tableware are extremely rare and very popular with collectors today.
The rare and ever popular Mother Bunnykins
As with all things Doulton colourways and prototypes dominate this field of collecting. Yet, there are many variations to be found more modestly, especially when special limited editions have been and are made as commemoratives and also for fairs around the world. So happy hunting and happy Easter!!
Reg Brown was destined to play a pivotal role in the field of Doulton’s figure production. Born in 1909, he died at the early age of 53. He spent most of his life living locally to the Burslem factory in Wolstanton. Doulton typically became something of a family affair for the Browns, with his daughter-in-law working in the Character Jug department and his youngest son in the Doulton laboratory.
Reg Brown ca. 1950’s Head of Doulton’s on-glaze Figure Painting Department
Reg was originally a pupil of Herbert Betteley at Doultons and of the same school as Tom Parton, Charles Hart , Bernard Green, Harry Stevenson, Roland Holdcroft, Jack Pierpoint and others. He studied at the Burslem College of Art and from an early stage showed versatitily in painting landscapes and castles amongst many other subjects with prowess. However, he was destined to join Harry Allen, Norman Woodings, Charles Nixon and a handful of other men who formed the nucleus of the original figure painting department.
A founder of the Doulton Art Society, a member of the Doulton Sports Club and the Doulton choir, Reg would eventually become head of the On-glaze figure painting department, a position he would hold until his untimely death.
Collectors I know specifically look for Reg’s figures as they have exquisite faces and are superbly painted. I am fortunate to posess a few colourways also painted by Reg from the 1940’s, no doubt from his time as the head of department and the colourings are just wonderful in real life. One of my favourite figures painted by him is this colourway of Christmas Morn from 1942.
Once again, why not see how many of your pieces are painted by Reg – and what a great theme for collecting figures!
Simply search Facebook for the ‘Doulton Collectors Club’ and ask to join, then you can ask questions a view a variety of material from around the world!!!
What are you waiting for?
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!