The V&A Wedgwood Collection is one of the most important industrial collections in the world and a unique record of over 260 years of British ceramic production. Owned by the V&A following a successful fundraising campaign spearheaded by Art Fund, it is on display at Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent, where an imaginative public programme celebrates the diversity, creativity and depth of the collection, within its local context of North Staffordshire, known as The Potteries.
Wedgwood was founded in 1759 by British potter and entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood, who helped transform English pottery from a cottage craft into an art form and international industry. The Wedgwood family and business had a keen sense of their place in history and started collecting wares and designs as early as the 18th century. A museum has existed since 1906, first at the Etruria Factory site and then from 1952 at Barlaston. A newly designed museum opened in 2008, winning the Art Fund Museum of the Year prize in 2009. It houses the finest collection of Wedgwood material documenting production up to the present day, showcasing innovations in taste and fashion over three centuries.
The V&A Wedgwood Collection comprises over 165,000 works of art, ceramics, manuscripts and photographs charting the factory’s history, designs and ceramic production. It was saved for the nation and gifted to the V&A in 2014 following a major public appeal organised by Art Fund, generously supported by thousands of individuals, companies and grant-making foundations, including significant support from the Heritage Fund and Art Fund.
Around 3,500 objects are on display in the purpose-built museum, showcasing the commercial and aesthetic history of Wedgwood ceramics from iconic jasperware and black basalt vases and ornaments, to bone china tea-sets and classic 20th-century designs. Highlights from the collection include Wedgwood’s early creamware and jasperware experiments, Wedgwood’s copy of the Portland vase, the Wedgwood family portrait of 1780 by George Stubbs, and early examples of the medallion Wedgwood produced to support the Abolitionist cause. The museum charts the Wedgwood story through changing fashions from Rococo to neo-Classical pottery alongside examples of Wedgwood’s pioneering collaborations with artists and designers from John Flaxman to Eduardo Paolozzi. The collections and UNESCO-recognised archives explore the history of the Wedgwood family, from the creative genius of founder Josiah Wedgwood – pioneering businessman and social campaigner – to notable Wedgwood descendants both in and out of the factory, from naturalist Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) to composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958), and their wider cultural context.
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