School of Art
Ceramic FiguresThe modelled, press-moulded and slip-cast figures, nearly seventy of which were acquired between 1922 and 1936, form a discrete group within the collection of art and studio pottery. The artists who made these small-scale sculptures do not now appear in most of the histories of studio pottery—they were mainly, though not exclusively, made by women. The genre was popular in art schools from the first decade of the century to the mid-1930s when the market for this sort of ceramic figure suffered a sharp decline.
The first figures acquired were a group of six by Irene M. Browne. Their titles, subject and formal qualities epitomise the serious, even elegiac tone of many of the ceramic figures produced during the inter-war years. The group of figures by Phoebe Stabler, purchased in the same year, represent the more decorative, colourful aspect of the genre. Her smaller scale figures, depictions of women, children, and animals, conform to the dominant subject chosen by the ceramic modellers of the period.
The work of successful artists such as Gwendolen Parnell making literary and historical figures or for that matter the colourful slip-cast figures by Charles and Nell Vyse are notably absent. Of the many male exponents of the genre Greenslade preferred the simplified, almost modernist forms of the figures by Wilfred Norton; small in scale they bear weighty titles such as Earthbound Man, Into Whose Heart and The Becoming 'I am'. Figures made by the established studio potters Reginald Wells and Dora Billington are also represented in the collection.