Jonathan Mallinson

Published On


Page Range

pp. 291–326


  • English

Print Length

36 pages

13. 1936–39: Pottery for a Troubled World

  • Jonathan Mallinson (author)
Moorcroft’s reputation as a designer continued to grow in these years. His newly launched SunRay tea ware attracted the attention of the influential Council for Art and Industry, and was selected for exhibition both at home and abroad as a model of progressive design. But Moorcroft was openly critical of what he saw as the CAI’s narrow appreciation of his work. He asserted his independence in a letter to The Times, criticising the CAI’s selection criteria for the British display at the International Exhibition of Art and Technology in Paris, 1937, and provocatively exhibited his own selection of decorative pieces in the International Pavilion. His exhibit inspired an article in La Revue moderne which identified in his work a timeless moral value, a particularly significant response at a time when culture was becoming increasingly politicised in Europe. Not coincidentally, he publicised the prominent display of his work in the culturally tolerant Deutsches Museum in Munich, a gesture all the more eloquent as politically motivated exhibitions of National Socialist and of Degenerate Art were taking place less than a mile away at just this time. Moorcroft’s work was appreciated for what one critic called its ‘real truth’; his international reputation as a ceramic artist had never been higher. This double success as designer and artist was unparalleled at a time when the gulf between industrial and studio production was at its deepest. And it doubtless inspired Blackie to invite Moorcroft to write a book on his work; it would have followed publications by two of the most influential potters and instructors of the time, Gordon Forsyth and Dora Billington, who had each recently examined from different perspectives the future relationship of studio pottery and industrial design. The project, though, was barely begun, and only jottings survive which sketch out some of his guiding principles, not least his commitment to integrity in design. Moorcroft’s exhibition at the New York World’s Fair of 1939 again drew the attention of the national press. Ledgers indicate that his sales income was also steadily rising, although not by enough to completely offset the relentless increase in costs. The declaration of war would bring its own problems.


Jonathan Mallinson

Emeritus Professor of French at University of Oxford

Jonathan Mallinson is Emeritus Professor of Early Modern French Literature and Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. He has written extensively on prose fiction, comedy and satire of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and has edited works by Molière, Voltaire and Graffigny. His interest in British art pottery and its reception dates back many years.