Britain’s spiritual home of ceramics is set to host an important exhibition of some of the finest pieces of Victorian majolica pottery ever made in the UK and the US.
After a debut at New York City’s Bard Graduate Center, and currently wowing visitors at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, the exhibition Majolica Mania: Transatlantic Pottery in England and the United States, 1850–1915 will be coming to the UK, running from Saturday 8 October 2022 until Sunday 29 January 2023.
Fittingly, the only place where it can be seen will be in Stoke-on-Trent, dubbed the world capital of ceramics and the only city in Britain to be named after its primary industry, “The Potteries”.
Majolica pottery, a colourful, imaginative and innovative ceramic of the mid-19th century, is highly collectable, especially the pieces manufactured in Stoke-on-Trent by firms such as Minton, Wedgwood, and George Jones from 1850 to 1900.
Now, the city is set to see some of those prized pieces return home when the Majolica Mania exhibition opens at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery (PMAG), in October 2022, with many of the exhibits never before seen on public display in the UK.
The exhibition – organised by the Bard Graduate Center, New York City – is the largest and most comprehensive collection of majolica pottery featuring more than 150 works, mostly from private American collections.
But a number of iconic Minton pieces from PMAG’s collection will also be included.
For Stoke-on-Trent, the exhibition not only demonstrates the beauty and inventiveness of majolica pottery, but it also represents a ‘coming home’ for this type of ware.
Minton & Co. introduced it at the 1851 London Great Exhibition; and while the company was majolica’s premier maker, many other Stoke-on-Trent pottery companies – large and small – joined in making and exporting majolica around the world.
It was so popular in the US that numerous American potteries, many staffed by emigrant Staffordshire potters, also began to make majolica, often directly copying English designs.
While majolica enjoyed its ‘golden age’ in the late 1800s when it could be seen at international exhibitions and in royal palaces, as well as in the homes of the middle classes, it largely fell out of fashion by the turn of the 20th century.
Today, however, collectors on both sides of the Atlantic value these boldly decorative, richly coloured Victorian pieces, which reflect the interests and fashions of the day, and very often depicting nature and the natural world.
For anyone who loves ceramics, whether majolica or not, Stoke-on-Trent offers the chance to visit world class museums and attractions – and even have a go at the potter’s wheel themselves.
The city has been shaped by its production of pottery for centuries, and today is home to a host of award-winning attractions, visitor centres, tours, and factory shops, and is still the base for some of the country’s leading names in ceramics.
For more about the exhibition, visit www.stokemuseums.org.uk/pmag/
And for more information on Stoke-on-Trent as a destination, see www.visitstoke.co.uk.
Image: Mintons Ltd.Teapot, designed ca.1873; this example 1894. Private collection. Photo: Bruce White.