JOSIAH WEDGWOOD by Anthony Burton


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A pleasantly accessible biography of 18th-century England's potter plus which situates his contributions within the period's industrial and intellectual ferment and expansion. Josiah Wedgwood served his apprenticeship in the family's small pottery in Staffordshire, like others of the time a cluster of multi-skilled journeymen serving a local community; the gentry still looked for fine ware abroad. Once on his own, Wedgwood feverishly experimented with materials and methods and inaugurated what was in essence factory-line specialization, in spite of the workers' grumbles. However, it was his partnership with a Liverpool merchant of advanced intellectual connections, Thomas Bentley, which transformed the gifted but insular craftsman into a pacesetter. Burton chronicles the landmark orders--creamware for the Queen (Wedgwood had solved the problem of color consistency) and a mighty 1,224 pieces for the Empress of Russia, each sporting a different English landscape. Wedgwood himself was a high-powered, generally likeable family man who, on the side, promoted building of a canal, traveled here and there for promising clay, invented a kiln thermometer, and even dabbled in politics. The pottery output was astonishing--from mottled snuff boxes to the ""cool elegance"" of jasper (fine hard white pottery with applied blue or green figures) which complemented the neoclassic masterpieces of Adams and Sheridan. You don't have to know a glaze from a slip to enjoy this competent tribute to the compleat craftsman.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Stein & Day