Wednesday - 01 October 2014

Spotlight falls on Circus range

21 November 2001Written by ATG Reporter

WILKINSON’S/ CLARICE CLIFF: One might have expected Clarice Cliff pottery, with its very large UK collecting base, to be one of the areas of the market more resistant to economic concerns or the lack of confidence triggered by America’s low buying profile. But the jittery mood seems to have rubbed on the two most recent auctions to feature large quantities of Clarice material: that held by Christie’s South Kensington on November 2 and the Applied Arts sale at Sotheby’s Olympia.

Christie's saw just under two-thirds of their Clarice find buyers, which might have been very respectable compared with other sales but was still a lower percentage than usual, Sotheby's 101-lot selection, most of it from one private collection, saw an even lower take-up of 59 per cent.

Sotheby's offering, formed by Dorset shopkeepers Dave and Sally Sands, was somewhat limited in its scope in that it concentrated particularly on one design - the Idyll pattern, but CSK's sale was much wider ranging. So is this buying reluctance part of the current cautious mood?

The highest priced entry in CSK's sale came not from Clarice Cliff own pottery but from an interesting single-owner, 115-lot, sub-section of pieces produced by Clarice's parent firm, Wilkinson for the 1934 Art in Industry exhibition first shown at Harrods, and since regarded as a seminal show from a design history standpoint. For Art in Industry Clarice engaged the talents of a whole range of well known contemporary artists including the Bloomsbury Set's Vanessa Bell, Frank Brangwyn, Graham Sutherland and Laura Knight. The latter contributed her Circus range, inspired by the Carmo's Circus Troupe, which she observed for a year from 1926-7. Unlike most of the other artists who simply provided designs, Dame Laura contributed appropriate shapes as well. Her Circus range proved hugely popular then, as now: here it made up over half the Art in Industry entries and all but a handful of lots sold. Top price at £7800 was for the, 19in (48cm) high lamp base shown here designed as a tower of clowns and acrobats and now finished off with a complementary shade hand-painted by Quentin Bell. A similar example, but with a hairline crack to the base followed at £4500.

Much less popular was a 23-lot group of teawares produced by Wilkinson's competitor Foley for the Art In Industry exhibition; hardly any of which sold.

Top Clarice price here was a pair of candlesticks painted with one one of her popular abstracted designs - the Football pattern - which realised £6000.

The highest Clarice lots at Sotheby's at £2300, was the 13in (33cm) diameter charger pictured here decorated with a variant on the Appliqué Idyll pattern and inscribed Property of Threlfalls Brewery.

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