Several generations of the Rhead family used their artistic talents in the pottery industry, acting as designers to important potteries in Stoke-on-Trent and in the United States of America.The Rheads of North Staffordshire have been connected with the pottery industry since the eighteenth century, and possibly earlier. However George Woolliscroft Rhead senior (born 1832) was the first to exhibit a special gift for pottery design.
Four of George’s eleven children entered the pottery industry – George Woolliscroft junior (1854-1920), Frederick Alfred (1856-1933), Louis John (1858-1926), and Fanny Woolliscroft (1865-1931).The three boys began as apprentices at Mintons, but thereafter their careers diverged. George worked in London as an artist and teacher, Louis worked in the USA as an illustrator and only Frederick Alfred followed a traditional path as a potter and designer in the Stoke-on-Trent Potteries.
Four of Frederick Alfred’s children, Frederick Hurten (1880-1942), Harry Woolliscroft (1881-1950), Charlotte Antoinette Adolphine (Lottie, 1885-1947) and Adolphine (Dollie, 1888-1981), worked in the Staffordshire potteries.The sons served their apprenticeships under their father, but first Frederick Hurten, in 1902, and later Harry, left Staffordshire to continue their careers successfully in the United States. In Britain, their sisters Charlotte and Dollie became skilled potters, and Charlotte also became designer of considerable repute.
George Woolliscroft Rhead 1 (born 1832)
George Woolliscroft Rhead senior (born 1832) was the first of the Rheads to exhibit a special gift which marked him out as an outstanding craftsman. He rose to the post of heraldic gilder at Mintons at the time when Mintons were at the peak of their popularity and supplying their wares to royalty and to the rich throughout Europe. George also had a talent for teaching, which he developed until his retirement in 1901, first as an assistant master at Newcastle-under-Lyme Art School, and later at Chesterton and Longton, all in north Staffordshire. He was the founder of Fenton Art School. A devout Christian, he was also a Sunday School teacher. George married Fanny Colley, from Broseley, in Shropshire, in 1854, and they had eleven children, four of whom trained as potters and designers.
George Woolliscroft Rhead 2 (1854-1920)
Like his two brothers, the younger George Woolliscroft Rhead was apprenticed at Mintons. In 1869 he was charged with helping the artist WS Coleman to understand how pottery colours behaved. When Mintons set up their Art-Pottery Studio (1871-75), in Kensington, George joined it as a pottery painter, while Coleman was its art director. George gained an art scholarship to study at the South Kensington School of Art and travelled in Europe. He settled in London as an artist and illustrator and exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and became something of an all-rounder in the arts as an etcher, designer of stained glass and teacher. He wrote books on costume, including the standard History of the fan, and on a wide variety of topics within art and design. In 1914, he married the Scottish painter and illustrator, Annie French (1872-1965).
Frederick Alfred Rhead (1856-1933)
Frederick Alfred Rhead, followed a conventional path as potter, artist and designer. By 1871, he was assistant to Louis Marc Solon, who had worked at the great French porcelain factory at Sevres before fleeing from the Franco-Prussian War to England and joining Mintons. Solon was the foremost artist in the pate-sur-pate technique, which used layer upon layer of glazes to achieves its effect. Frederick married Adolphine Hurten whose father, the German CF Hurten, was among the many continental artists at Minton’s at that time. Four of their children, Frederick Hurten Rhead (1880-1942), Harry (1881-1950), Charlotte(1885-1947) and Adolphine (Dollie, 1888-1981), worked in the potteries. The sons served their apprenticeships under their father at Brownfield’s, where Frederick Alfred had become a designer after working successfully in pottery decoration at Mintons and Wedgwood. Both sons followed their father to Wileman & Co. of Fenton (later called Shelley).
Louis John Rhead (1858-1926)
At thirteen, Louis John Rhead was sent to Paris to study (1872-75) under the painter Gustave Boulanger (1824-1888), who is often characterized as a ‘salon painter’ – Boulanger painted classical and historical subjects in a richly detailed, if rather stilted, manner. After returning to Mintons, Louis, like his brother George, gained a scholarship to the South Kensington School of Art. He joined his brother George in London and worked as a designer of book jackets and posters for the publisher Cassell’s. An American publishing house, Appleton, offered Louis the post of art director and he settled in New York in 1883, eventually becoming a US citizen. He achieved his greatest success as a poster designer and as a book and magazine illustrator, notably for children’s classics. He often collaborated with one or both of his brothers, George and Frederick, in illustrating such books as A Pilgrim’s Progress and in projects connected with the Arthurian legends. Later in life he produced several books on fishing and created a range of flies and lures for field sports.
Fanny Woolliscroft Rhead (1865-1931)
Fanny married and, in spite of bearing eleven children, achieved some success as a freelance painter and designer. Her designs were used by the small pottery of Robinson & Sons (later known as E Brain & Co). She is also credited with winning a competition to design mosaics for Armagh Cathedral, in Ulster, but there is no record there of the mosaic designers.
Frederick Hurten Rhead (1880-1942)
For more about Fred Rhead, please look at Frederick Hurten Rhead
Harry Woolliscroft Rhead (1881-1950)
After serving an apprenticeship under his father Frederick Alfred Rhead at Brownfields, Harry Rhead followed his brother, Frederick Hurten Rhead, to continue his career successfully in the United States.
In 1908 Harry W Rhead also followed his brother as Art Director for the Roseville Pottery Company, in Zanesville, Ohio, and introduced the Donatello range, one of the company’s most successful and profitable patterns, in 1915 and was produced by the pottery for the decade. It had as many as 100 different shapes and sizes.
Charlotte (Lottie) Rhead (1885-1947)
Adolphine (Dollie) Rhead (1888-1981)
Along with her sister, Charlotte Rhead, Dollie enrolled at Fenton Art School, where she learnt a number of skills, including enamelling. Soon Charlotte and Dollie joined Wardle and Co. (where their brother, Frederick Hurten Rhead, was art director) to work as a tube-liners. By 1905, business at Wardles was declining and the sisters moved to Keeling & Co, at Burslem. Keelings did not use tube-lined decoration, so both girls were employed as enamellers. In December 1906, their father wrote to William Moorcroft, the distinguished designer and a leading exponent of the tube-lining process, seeking an opening for his daughters, but nothing came of it. Later Dolly Rhead left pottery work to train as a nurse at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, though she kept her hand in by standing in occasionally while her sister Charlotte was on holiday.
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