Sunday - 26 October 2014

Ambrose Heal, and how he gave quality mass appeal

30 May 2003Written by ATG Reporter

HOPEFULLY with a host of international collectors and dealers in town for the fairs, there is business to be achieved back at the London shops, and a number of them will be mounting special selling exhibitions during June.

Always worth a look are the two shows a year mounted by Islington Arts and Crafts specialists The Millinery Works, who stage a particularly interesting exhibition Better Furniture for Better Times at their gallery at 85-87 Southgate Road from June 4 to 29.

The exhibition explores the furniture designs of Ambrose Heal (1872-1959) for Heal & Son, the famous store he founded which still operates from London’s Tottenham Court Road.

The exhibition title is taken from a Heal’s advertising slogan of 1932, by which time the designs of Ambrose Heal had moved from the Arts and Crafts of his first catalogue in 1898 to a more linear form.

Following successful shows devoted to Liberty’s, Mackintosh and The Cotswolds School among others, The Millinery Works has again drawn together a fine selection of pieces, much of the furniture sourced from the collection of a former Heal’s employee, who was head cashier at the store in the 1930s.

More than 60 pieces of furniture are illustrated in the exhibition catalogue (which costs £5) and prices for the whole show range from £125 up to £12,500 for an oak ‘Fine Feathers/Ruskin’ wardrobe with pewter and macassar ebony inlay, c.1897.

Jeff Jackson, manager of The Millinery Works and an organiser of the exhibition (he also wrote the catalogue introduction), points out that one of the great ironies of the Arts and Crafts Movement was that it never succeeded in arguably its prime aim, to supply well-made and designed furniture to a mass market. But he maintains this show indicates that Ambrose Heal not only maintained quality but succeeded in reaching a wide audience with his wares.

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ATG Reporter

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