A treat for fellow figure collectors is this early version of Easter Day by Leslie Harradine, modelled after a still of Vivienne Leigh in ‘Gone with the Wind’ from 1938 when the actress played Scarlet O’Hara. The actual version of this figure that went into production in 1945 was accurate in almost every detail to the photograph that has previously been listed here!
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!!
Much is documented about the wares produced by Doulton during this period as much of what was produced is so very rare that only one or two examples of items exist to this day.
However, very little has been documented about what actually happened at the Burslem and Lambeth factories at this time. Naturally there was a shortage of raw materials that had a major impact on production, but also the calling up of employees from both factories must have almost halted production of most wares, save utilitarian items needed for the war effort.
Damage to the Burslem warehouse October 1940
The war came early to the Burslem factory, when in October 1940 a three-storey warehouse housing finished goods and also the Art Director’s studios were bombed. Here you can see a couple of pictures of the debris it left behind. Try as I might the only things I can pin point are a Limited Edition Jug and what is probably some Flambé ware.
A further view of the damage cause to the warehouse at Burslem in 1940
At Lambeth too, the factory sustained damage as did many of their employees’ homes. In May 1941 the Lambeth showrooms took a direct hit and were destroyed but fortunately there was no loss of life at that point. In typical Doulton form for the company at this time, financial assistance was provided to employees suffering from war damage to their homes.
Whilst the above is merely a snap-shot of events during the war-years, it allows us to share these unique pictures from the time.
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!