Style Guide: Influence of China

Vase, James Hadley, 1872. Museum no. 845A-1872

Vase, James Hadley, 1872. Museum no. 845A-1872

The influence of China was seen in British design from the late 17th century onwards. The Chinoiserie style, as it was known, was still in use in the 19th century for objects made for the popular market. The expansion of British diplomatic, trade and religious activity in China in the 1850s and 1860s re-awakened people's interest in the 'Celestial Empire' and brought previously unknown examples of Chinese art and design to the attention of British collectors and designers. Chinese ceramics, in particular, had a great influence on British potters.

Characteristics

Chinese figures

Images of Chinese people were produced on a wide range of goods. Many of the scenes depicted were purely British inventions, but some designers took their inspiration directly from Chinese watercolours made for the European market 

Chinese glazes 

Growing knowledge of Chinese pottery and porcelain had a great influence in the late 19th century. British and European potters sought to understand and recreate the 'duck egg', 'crackle' and brilliant red 'flambé' glazes found on Chinese ceramics.

Bamboo

An enormous range of bamboo furniture was available in Britain in the second half of the 19th century. The poles and panels were imported mainly from Japan. Manufacturers combined British, Chinese and Japanese elements to produce items that satisfied a desire for the 'exotic', but were relatively inexpensive.

People

Bernard Moore (1850 - 1935)

Bernard Moore took over his father's pottery factory in Loughton, Staffordshire, in 1870. Moore was particularly interested in Chinese glaze technology and his own experiments in the field led to the creation of some technically remarkable pieces. He is best remembered for his highly accomplished mottled red 'flambé' glazes on Chinese inspired shapes. Moore acted as a consultant to other potteries and wrote a number of technical papers. He thus played an important role in the development of the ceramic industry in Britain.

William Howson Taylor (1876 - 1935)

William Howson Taylor established the Ruskin Pottery in 1895. Taylor experimented with Chinese glaze technology with the aim of pushing forward the boundaries of ceramic knowledge. He often used Chinese vessel forms, feeling that their elegant shapes would best enhance the effect of the glazes. Unfortunately, Taylor's research notes do not survive. He destroyed them himself on retirement as he feared that they would pass into unscrupulous hands and that cheap imitations would flood the market.

Buildings and Interiors

Biddulph Grange Chinese Garden   

Biddulph Grange in Stoke-on-Trent is a remarkable example of 19th century garden design. Starting in 1842, its owner James Bateman spent over 20 years creating a series of themed gardens using trees, shrubs and plants from all over the world. The Chinese Garden evokes a magical vision of the East. It features a great stone gateway, ornate wooden bridge and a temple crowned with golden dragons. Within this fanciful setting are displayed many of the plants that were brought back from China in the 19th century.
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/biddulph-grange-garden


Related Style

Chinoiserie 1745 - 1765

Objects imported from China had first inspired British designers in the late 17th century. By the 18th century the style was known as Chinoiserie. It returned to fashion at regular intervals. In the second half of the 19th century British expansion into Asia gave access to Chinese objects made for the domestic market. In earlier times British designers would only have seen things produced specifically for export to Europe.

Read more about Chinoiserie

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