John Pearson and John Williams

I have been trying to work out how John Pearson and John Williams (both founder members of the Guild of Handicraft) influenced each other, and were themselves influenced by Charles Ashbee.

I came across a very interesting blog which focuses its interest mainly on the large copper frame designed by Charles Ashbee for Holman Hunt’s painting, May Morning on Magdalen Tower, but it also contains some interesting material about the three of them. The blog is worth reading in itself but the key things that came out of it for me were:

  • It seems that John Williams came to the Guild in 1888 without any training. It is reasonable to suppose that John Pearson trained him.
  • The frame was made at the Guild of Handicraft in Commercial Street, Whitechapel in 1889. It represents the four elements (earth, air, fire and water) and was apparently executed by John Williams.
  • It was exhibited (without the picture) at the 1889 Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society where it was praised, partly because the “dull beaten copper” complemented, and did not interfere, with the picture (unlike the “glaring, shining yellow of the gilt frame”).
  • The blog also refers to another collaboration, this time between John Williams and John Pearson, also in 1889 in which John Pearson designed the charger and John Williams, together with John Pearson, jointly executed the design. This charger which measures 62cm in diameter was sold at Christies in November 2000, for £5875.