Vase thumbnail 1
Vase thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 125, Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery

Vase

ca. 1877 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

These vases are the only known surviving examples of three-dimensional ceramics designed by E. W. Godwin, the progressive architect, designer, writer and interior decorator. For many, Godwin's work epitomises British aestheticism, with its clean lines inspired by Japanese forms.

Witty and individual, one vase depicts a side table, an example of which is in the V&A's collection, and beside it, in mock-Greek style is the word 'Kawphyrite' (copyright): a reference to the plagiarism of Godwin's furniture pieces around this time. Godwin was interested in the relationship between ceramics and furniture and many of his designs centre around the interaction between the two to create rich interiors. The undersides of the vases are signed with Godwin's initials: E.W.G and the initials W.W., which probably refer to the furniture manufacturer William Watt with whom Godwin worked.

Irregular in shape and creatively decorated, these vases typify the eccentricity of the nineteenth century art pottery style which aimed to place the 'artist' at the centre of production and revive traditional styles, such as slip-ware.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Slipware
Brief Description
Vase, one of a pair, slip over red earthenware, sgraffito decorated with Japanese inspired motifs, designed by Edwin William Godwin, about 1877.
Physical Description
Vase, of red earthenware with sgraffito decoartion on cream slip, depicting japanese-style motifs and birds in different attitudes. This vase includes a stork next to a Godwin designed table and the word 'KAWPHYRITE' written to the side of the table.
Dimensions
  • Height: 20.7cm
  • Diameter: 19cm
Styles
Production typeUnique
Marks and Inscriptions
'E.W.G' , 'W.W'. 'J.G' (Initials inscribed to base 'E.W.G.' (presumably Edward William Godwin), ‘W.W.’ (presumably William Watt) and 'J.G.' (presumably the potter)’.)
Gallery Label
  • Influence of Japan, gallery 125 Disc 2 30. PAIR OF VASES About 1877 These vases are strongly influenced by the simple lines of Japanese design but also demonstrate other influences. The one on the left shows Godwin's own design for a coffee table. Its top, shown without European perspective, appears like a screen. Next to it, 'KAWPHYRITE' [copyright], in Anglo-Greek lettering, makes a witty reference to the illegal copying of the designer's own work. [61] Cream slip over red earthenware, sgraffito decorated Designed by Edward William Godwin (born in Bristol ,1833, died in London,1886); inscribed monograms to the base: 'E.W.G' (Edward William Godwin), 'W.W.' (probably furniture manufacturer William Watt), 'J.G' (probably the potter, identity unknown) Purchased with the assistance of The Art Fund(19/03/2009)
  • BGO text Object Type These vases are the only known surviving examples of three-dimensional ceramics designed by E. W. Godwin. They demonstrate the sgrafitto technique which involves scratching through one layer (in this case cream slip) to expose a contrasting ground colour (here it is red earthenware). Irregular in shape and creatively decorated, these vases typify the eccentricity of the nineteenth century art pottery style which aimed to place the 'artist' at the centre of production and revive traditional styles, such as slipware and sgrafitto decoration. As well as designing these vases, Godwin almost certainly also executed the incised decoration. The undersides of the vases are signed with Godwin's initials: E.W.G and the initials W.W., which probably refer to the furniture manufacturer William Watt with whom Godwin worked on several projects. The initials 'J.G.' also appear on the base and probably belong to the potter, whose identity is unknown. People Edward William Godwin (1833-1886) was a progressive architect, designer, writer and interior decorator. His career spans many of the most distinctive decorative trends of the nineteenth century, from his early work in the Gothic style to his later designs which border on Modernism. For many, his work epitomises British Aestheticism, with its clean lines inspired by Japanese forms. Godwin was one of the main exponents of Japanese style in Britain and one of the first to decorate his own home using Japanese ceramics, prints on plain coloured walls and straw matting on floors. Design & Designing Godwin was interested in the relationship between ceramics and furniture and many of his designs centre around the interaction between the two to create rich interiors. These vases offer a snapshot of Godwin's style. The coffee table depicted on one of the vases was first made by the furniture manufacturer William Watt in about 1867 and in 1877 Watt published a catalogue entitled Art Furniture designed by Edward W. Godwin F.S.A and manufactured by William watt, 21 Grafton Street, Gower Street, London, with hints and suggestions on domestic furniture and decoration, which features many of the motifs depicted on these vases, most strikingly the figure of the stork, which appears on the front cover. Many of the other decorative elements demonstrated on these vases can be seen throughout Godwin's sketchbooks. The Prints and Drawings Study Room at the V&A houses a large collection of Godwin's sketchbooks and designs.
Credit line
Purchased with Art Fund support
Object history
Purchased from Paul Reeves/Sotheby's
Production
Attribution for Godwin is based on the following:



- The vases are inscribed beneath with the initials ‘E.W.G’ (presumably Edward William Godwin), ‘W.W’ (presumably William Watt) and J.G (presumably the potter)’



- Similar storks are incorporated in the designs of Plates 1 and 10 of the catalogue of Godwin’s furniture and interiors, “Art Furniture designed by Edward W. Godwin FSA and manufactured by William Watt, 21 Grafton Street, Gower Street, London…” (William Watt catalogue) published by William Watt in 1877. Another stork is used in the decoration of a toilet set illustrated in The British Architect and Northern Engineer of February 14th 1879. Others similar are dotted throughout Godwin’s sketchbooks.



- The fan motif on these vases appears identical to Plate 1 of the William Watt catalogue.



- The formal Japanese sun/daisy motif appears in Godwin’s designs for tiles. It appears in Plated 10 and 14 of the William Watt catalogue in designs for wall decoration and also in Plate 15 enlarged as the principal decoration of a bowl standing on the sideboard. The motif is used on the bowl of a toilet set in one of the sketchbooks.



- The square pattern of four interlocking ‘U’ shapes is also used on the bowl of the aforementioned toilet set and on the wall decoration in Plate 14 of the William Watt catalogue.



- The cheeseboard motif appears in Plates 10 and 1 of the William Watt catalogue



Attribution note: No other 3D ceramic designed by Godwin is known to survive
Subject depicted
Summary
These vases are the only known surviving examples of three-dimensional ceramics designed by E. W. Godwin, the progressive architect, designer, writer and interior decorator. For many, Godwin's work epitomises British aestheticism, with its clean lines inspired by Japanese forms.



Witty and individual, one vase depicts a side table, an example of which is in the V&A's collection, and beside it, in mock-Greek style is the word 'Kawphyrite' (copyright): a reference to the plagiarism of Godwin's furniture pieces around this time. Godwin was interested in the relationship between ceramics and furniture and many of his designs centre around the interaction between the two to create rich interiors. The undersides of the vases are signed with Godwin's initials: E.W.G and the initials W.W., which probably refer to the furniture manufacturer William Watt with whom Godwin worked.



Irregular in shape and creatively decorated, these vases typify the eccentricity of the nineteenth century art pottery style which aimed to place the 'artist' at the centre of production and revive traditional styles, such as slip-ware.
Associated Object
C.1-2008 (Set)
Bibliographic References
  • Sothebys/Paul ReevesThe Best of British Design form the 19th and 20th CenturiesLondon 14-20 March 2008
  • Catherine Arbuthnott, 'E.W.Godwin and Ceramics', in Susan Soros (ed.) E.W.Godwin, Aesthetic Movement Architect and Designer, (New Haven, 1999), pp. 299-300
  • See Ceramics & Glass Section object information file
Collection
Accession Number
C.2-2008

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record createdJune 30, 2008
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