The exuberant floral designs and sinuous flowing lines of William Moorcroft’s early Art pottery immediately captured the imagination of a public enthralled by the emerging Art Nouveau movement. These early designs continue to appeal to fans today and command the highest prices. They also exhibit the greatest variety of form and decoration, and demonstrate the gradual development of the familiar designs that continue to inspire the work of the Moorcroft Pottery today.
Born to a Staffordshire ceramics painter, William Moorcroft (1872-1945) displayed a talent for design at an early age and went on to study at the Royal College of Art. Whilst at college, he familiarised himself with the changing forms of pottery throughout history, and this extensive knowledge is evident in the range of forms – the chalices, the twin-handled pots and the urn-shaped vases – of his early work. As a young man in the 1890s, he became enthralled by the process of ceramic production and happily took up the offer of a design post in at the influential Earthenware manufacturer, James Macintire & Co., in Burslem.
Responding to the growing trend for Art pottery, Macintire & Co. had started to develop its own decorative pieces in the mid-1890s and appointed Moorcroft to bring new and exciting ideas to this range. His early ‘Aurelian’ vases, inspired by Arts and Crafts designers such as William Morris, were finished in the slip-decorated style for which he became known. Designs, usually in blues, yellows or white, were lavishly painted in relief lines of slip, which were then filled with Underglaze color.
Later work for Macintire & Co., known as ‘Florian Ware’, had elaborate floral and foliate decoration in the emerging Art Nouveau style. ‘Florian Ware’ ceramics are popular today and can command around £1,000-3,000 ($2,000-6,000) or more, depending on rarity and condition. As well as the design on the surface, he paid careful attention to form; shapes were inspired by contemporary movements as well as Classical and Oriental styles.
In 1912, Macintire’s closed its Art pottery department and Moorcroft, whose work was now known around the world, set up his own company with financial assistance from the fashionable London retailer, Liberty & Co. By this time, Moorcroft’s patterns, including ‘Pomegranate’, ‘Wisteria’ and ‘Hazeldine’, were simpler and bolder, usually with dark grounds and a clear glossy Glaze that enhanced the rich colors. Success led to the firm receiving a Royal Warrant in 1929 and it is still in production today.