Eight examples of Martin Brothers pottery on thesaleroom.com showcasing the range of skills, styles and prices25 November 2019 'Martinware' is the name given to the array of creations designed and made by the Martin Brothers of Southall, London, during the late 19th and early 20th century.
These idiosyncratic pots have an enduring collecting history and remain in demand with collectors. The brother’s most coveted creations are the Gothic-inspired creatures – particularly the anthropomorphic bird jars modelled by Robert Wallace Martin.
But Martinware collecting falls into a number of niche markets such as grotesques (the face jugs, imps and spoon warmers), the thrown and incised vessels that offer the full Martinware experience at usually a lesser price level, and a range of miniatures and gourds typically made by Edwin and Walter Martin.
An upcoming auction on November 27 at Woolley & Wallis in its British Art Pottery and design sale includes two different Martinware collections.
Around 200 lots come from the collection of George Twyman who bought pieces across all the production range (not all of them in perfect condition). Others are from Daryl Fromm, who was more selective in his purchases, going for the best examples of the brothers’ work he could obtain.
Here we highlight eight examples from this sale across the main collecting areas.
1. An early example
This 8.5in (22cm) high stoneware teapot, cover and stand by Robert Wallace Martin, dates to 1879. This design for a teapot is included in a sketchbook held in the Ealing archive. This particular example has a small glaze nick to the neck rim and a firing fault to the stand and is estimated at £400-600. View and bid for this Martin Brothers stoneware teapot on thesaleroom.com.
2. Finely decorated jar
This jar and cover with aquatic decoration by Edwin and Walter Martin dated 1896 from the Daryl Fromm collection is described by W&W specialist Michael Jeffery as “probably one of the finest pieces of Martinware I have had the pleasure of handling”. He added: “The vase and cover are both beautifully incised with fish and grotesque water creatures, with this work being finely picked out in paint… It also has the added provenance of being included in the seminal Martin Brothers exhibition held by Richard Dennis in 1978.” View and bid for this Martin Brothers aquatic vase with an estimate of £5000-10,000.
3. Imp musician
This 4.5in (12cm) stoneware imp from a series of commical musicians by Robert Wallace Martin is dated 1900. From the George Twyman Collection it has some professional restoration. View and bid for this Martin Brothers Imp musician which is estimated at £1500-2000.
4. Bird jar
This 10.5in (26.5cm) high example of one of the Martin Brothers stoneware bird jar and covers is from the Daryl Fromm collection and has been exhibited at the Gorgeously Grotesque exhibition at the Worthing Museum and Art Gallery in 2003. It is estimated at £30,000-50,000. View and bid for this Martinware bird jar on thesaleroom.com.
5. Grotesque jug
This 6in (15cm) high Martin Brothers stoneware face jug modelled in relief with a smiling face to both sides, comes from The George Twyman Collection. The face jugs are an alternative collecting area of grotesques to the more expensive bird jars. View and bid for this Martin Brothers stoneware face jug which is estimated at £800-1200.
6. Gourd vase
Gourd vases were created following a trip to Paris when the brothers were inspired by the many wonderful Art Nouveau creations fashionable at the time. This 10in (25.5cm) high large gourd vase by Edwin and Walter Martin is dated 1900. The vase, in shades of peach and green on an off-white ground, has a strong provenance to a number of collections and is estimated at £800-1200. View and bid for the Martin Brothers stoneware gourd vase on thesaleroom.com.
7. Flower vase
A rare 9.5in (24.5cm) stoneware cameo vase by brothers Edwin and Walter Martin comes in a matt blue glaze with sgraffito and carved with two birds flying amongst clematis flowers. It is dated 1898. It too has been exhibited at the Gorgeously Grotesque exhibition at the Worthing Museum and Art Gallery in 2003 and mentioned in the Judy Rudoe Decorative Arts 1850-1950 A Catalogue of the British Museum Collection. It is estimated at £800-1200. View and bid for the Martin Brothers stoneware cameo vase online.
8. Imperfect vase
A single high-temperature kiln was fired just once a year without protective saggars which meant every Martin Brothers pot was in direct contact with the flames. The result was a very unpredictable output for the brothers (on one occasion, only one good pot emerged from an entire year’s work). This 7in (18.5cm) high vase shows the brothers playfully acknowledging that it did not survive firing unscathed. The stoneware Marred pot is inscribed with the verse `And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter'. The collapsed pot highlighted in black on a mottled mushroom ground is estimated at £120-180. View the Martin Brothers Marred pot online.
Read ATG's collecting guide for more information on Martin Brothers pottery.