John Pearson is the most famous metalworker of the late 19th and early 20th century English Arts & Crafts movement. This website is a personal view of his life and work. It is intended primarily as an information site but we are also collectors so, if you have a good piece you would like to showcase on the site or to sell, please get in touch.
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Pearson and the Art Union of London
The Art Union of London was set up in 1837 as an organisation to distribute works of art among its subscribers by lottery (source: wikipedia). Subscribers paid a small fee each year to earn the chance of winning an art work which the Union had bought. The prizes typically included medals or bronzes, but also other art work like statues, prints and illustrated books. Sometimes these pieces appear at auction such as a cast iron tazza dated 1851 which was sold at Christies.
Interestingly, in 1896, the Art Union of London had an interest in repousse metalwork since one of the prizes was an electroplated repousse book cover dated 1896 by Miss M.Lilian Simpson.
It seems quite possible (to me at least) that John Pearson, possibly on behalf of the Guild of Handicraft, donated metalwork to the Art Union of London, although I am not aware of any documented link. The charger below, however, was recently sold at auction which is inscribed, on the back, ‘The Art Union of London’.
Interesting the dimensions of this charger – 39cm – are the same as the charger in the earlier post dated 1889 which is signed and dated. Stylistically, it seems to me to have many of the hallmarks of early work by John Pearson, in particular the focus on more natural decoration rather than wonderful creatures (compare, for example, the copper box dated 1891).
John Pearson was born in Lambeth in 1859. After a short stint at the De Morgan factory, in the early 1880s he learned repousse work.
In 1888, with Charles Ashbee and John Williams (and others), he founded the Guild of Handicraft. It seems that he taught John Williams the art of repousse work, but also executed Ashbee designs.
In 1892 he left the Guild and travelled to Newlyn where he trained the local fishing boys. I don’t think he stayed long (a year or less) and he shortly returned to London … Read more
John Pearson also produced pieces in brass, particularly in the early period and at the Guild of Handicraft.
In 1893/1893 he also seemed to have toyed with repousse silver. These are rare and generally of a smaller size. … Read more
John Pearson was not himself a potter but typically decorated pottery blanks from other factories, signing them with a characteristic JP mark.
The palette is typically blue/green but he also used silver and gold in a free hand style.
His style contains some characteristic features of De Morgan pottery (and Arts and Crafts motifs more generally such as the galleon and tree of life) but is typically more free and characterful (in my view), for example humorous lizards, dragons etc. … Read more
I am particularly interested in building up a catalogue of pieces bearing pattern numbers.
These seem to range from the 200s in the late 1880s until the mid 3000s in the early 1900s. Common sense would suggest that they are numbered sequentially - but I have seen two clearly very different pieces with the same pattern number (possibly an error?).
Much, if not most of John Pearson's work, does not have a pattern number. In particular, some of the early pieces - when John Pearson was at the Guild - may not have pattern numbers (or signatures) because of the socialist tendency of the Guild not to identify particular craftsmen (a rule which John Pearson did not respect).