February 5, 2017

Further generous help!

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Catalogues of antique dealer material, from the 1950s and 1960s.

Our very generous Antique Dealer project supporters continue to send us antique dealer ephemera – thanks again to Tim Turner at Sworders Auctioneers  and to Jacqueline and her son George, for passing on another parcel of ephemera – these resources are crucial for the continuing developments in the research for the Antique Dealers project. The material that Tim passed to us included a selection of Antique Fair catalogues from the 1950s and 1960s, and two very interesting antique dealer sales catalogues. One of the catalogues was from the well-known dealer Margery Dean, of Wivenhoe in Essex – the catalogue is undated but appears to be from the late 1950s?

The other catalogue was a much more interesting, and much rarer, example, produced by the dealers W. & E. Thornton-Smith, and dating from c.1910.

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W. & E. Thornton-Smith catalogue, c.1910.

Indeed, the Thornton-Smith catalogue deserves a separate, and fuller, blog entry, and I’ll compose that shortly.  Once again we have to thank our generous supporters at Sworders Auctioneers…thank you Tim and all…your contributions have again been most welcome, as we continue to build what we hope will become the National Centre for the Study of the Antique Trade here at the University of Leeds.

Do watch out for the forthcoming Thornton-Smith blog entry…

Mark

 

 

January 19, 2017

‘As it’s called in the Trade’ – more generous help to the research project

Thanks again to the vast number of interested, and interesting, individuals who follow the Antique Dealer research project we continue to build an archive of the Cultural History of the Antique Trade.  And this time our thanks go to our friend and colleague, Dr Howard Coutts, Curator of Decorative Art and Ceramics at The Bowes Museum, in County Durham.  Howard very generously donated a small box of antique dealer related ephemera that he recently discovered in a charity shop – Thank You Howard!

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Material for the proposed book ‘As it’s Called in the Trade’. Early 1980s. Photograph, Antique Dealers Project, University of Leeds, 2017.

The material appears to be an outline draft structure and associated images for a publication entitled ‘As it’s Called in the Trade’, composed by the writer Brian Jewell, apparently in the early 1980s. Brian Jewell (1925-2006) was a prolific author, with at least 20 publications, ranging from local history subjects to military history.  He appears to have been something of a specialist in military history, indeed he also appears to have been in an editorial role for the journal ‘Soldier‘ in the early 1990s (‘Soldier‘ has been published since the Second World War, and continues to be produced), whilst running something called ‘War Room – Collection and Sound Archive’ in Harrogate, West Yorkshire.  Jewell also produced a small number of books on collecting in the 1970s and 1980s, including, Antique Sewing Machines (1985), Smoothing Irons: a history and collector’s guide (1977), and Collecting for Tomorrow (1979) – and was obviously preparing to produce a book on collecting antique furniture, as this archive demonstrates.

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Photographs and draft structures for ‘As it’s Called in the Trade’. Photo., Antique Dealer Project, University of Leeds, 2017.

I don’t know why his proposed book ‘As it’s Called in the Trade’ did not hit the press, but the small amount of archive material that Howard donated to us suggests that considerable work had already been done.

The material consists of a few pages of draft structures for the book, with title and chapter headings (all relatively conventional for the time, as one would expect), and a large amount of black and white photographs of antique furniture, all from Bonhams auctioneers, from what must have a been a series of English and Continental Furniture auctions in 1980 and 1981.

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18th century ‘library chair’. Original photograph copyright Bonhams Auctioneers.

Back in those days, the major auction houses used to classify auctions into collecting categories – ‘English Furniture’ ‘French Furniture’ ‘Continental Furniture’ etc etc…today of course the big auction houses are much more keyed into evolving and expanding markets and titles of auctions often follow sophisticated marketing and promotional techniques  – hence auctions titled ‘Interiors’ and the numerous ‘curated’ auctions in more recent times.

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One of a pair of ‘George III Pier Tables’, original photograph, Bonhams Auctioneers, 1981.

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Verso of ‘Pier Table’ photo – with details of price realized and buyer. Bonhams Auctioneers, 1981.

What is of particular interest to the antique dealer project in the small archive is how it further illustrates the synergies between the developing literature on the history of objects such as ‘antique furniture’ and the wider art market structures – the relationships between discourses if you like. This is made much more evident when one examines the back of the photographs – all of which have a range of art market information on them.

In this instance, this pair of ‘George III Pier Tables’ was sold at Bonhams auction on 28th July 1981, when they made £7,200, and were recorded as being sold to the dealer ‘Turpin’ – (M. Turpin Antiques, which was then run by the well known dealer ‘Dick’ Turpin, who was at the time trading from Mansion Mews, London SW7).

 

Other photographs similarly illustrate furniture sold at the auction house of Bonhams in 1980 and 1981. The ‘library chair’ in the photograph above for example, was one of a set of eight chairs sold at Bonhams on 25th March 1980 for £10,500 to the dealer ‘Williamson’ (possibly R.G. Williamson, then trading in Devon).  Other photographs just record the description of the object, auction lot number, and priced realized, such as this ‘George III mahogany serpentine chest’ which was sold at Bonhams on 17th July 1980 for £1,250. (There are probably buyer’s premiums to add to these figures of course, which in those days was c.10%).

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A ‘George III…chest’. Original photograph Bonham Auctioneers, 1980.

All of this is not unusual of course – why wouldn’t a publication that intends to provide illustrations of antique furniture seek photographs of antique furniture that have recently been circulating on the art market.  But there is an interesting genealogy here, if we remember that many of the founding texts that focused on the history of English Furniture, which began to appear with increasing frequency from the period 1900 onwards, had also drawn their illustrations of key objects from the corpus of photographed examples circulating in the antique trade in the period. Attention to the meanings of this observation is something that the project is considering, and I’d like to say thank you again to Howard Coutts for providing us with yet another example of the significant interaction between discourse and the market.

Mark

 

December 17, 2016

‘Where is it Now?’

As part of developing the rich potential of the wide variety of Antique Dealer archives that we now have at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds we have developed a ‘Where is it Now?’ project. The project aims to reconnect some of the objects in the archives with their current owners, if they still exist in public museums or private collections anywhere.  We are choosing objects that are relatively easy to identify, and objects that we believe are (still) of some historical significance.

The photographs of the objects will be initially from the Phillips of Hitchin archive photograph albums, which appear to date from c.1900.  Phillips of Hitchin were established in 1882 at the Manor House, Hitchin, and remained there for over 120 years. The business sold antique objects to museums and collectors from all over the world, so we are hoping that some of the objects will speak of their travels!

The first of the ‘Where is it Now?’ objects is this Lambeth (London) delftware plate, dated 1717, and with the initials ‘C W D’ painted on it. If you know where it is now do let us know by emailing antiquedealers@leeds.ac.uk

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Lambeth delftware plate, 1717. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, MS1999/4/1/52. Photograph courtesy Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds, 2016.

Happy Hunting!

Mark

December 15, 2016

Another ‘BADA Voices’ oral history interview

We’ve been busy this last month with our Oral History interviews with members of the antique trade – and the latest in our continuing series of ‘BADA Voices’ was with one of the leading members of the Antique English Furniture trade, Robin Kern, of Hotspur Limited.  We would like to thank Robin, and Chris Coles, our Lead Volunteer for the Antique Dealers Research project, for undertaking the interview. Print

And continued thanks to BADA for their support!

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Robin and Brian Kern, of Hotspur Limited, standing next to the famous black lacquer secretaire, made by Thomas Chippendale for Harewood House in the 1770s (now at Temple Newsam House, Leeds). Photograph courtesy of Robin Kern, 1999.

The business of Hotspur began in 1924 in Buckingham Palace Road, London, established by Frederick Kern, before moving to Frith Street in Soho, London just before the Second World War, then Streatham Lodge, Twickenham during the War, and finally to Lowndes Street, London from 1951.  The business was continued by Robin Kern’s father, Rob Kern, before Robin and his brother Brian joined the firm in 1957 and 1963 respectively.

Our interview with Robin adds critical mass to the wide range of complementary oral history interviews we have already completed – including those with Jerome Phillips, of Phillips of Hitchin, who was, as Robin tells us in his own interview, a key travelling companion during their formative years in the antique trade in the 1950s and 1960s.

We have move oral history interviews planned for 2017, so do keep an eye on developments.

Mark

 

November 29, 2016

Even More Student Volunteers!

The benefits of having an increasing number of students interested in the Art Market are clearly reflected in the recent growth in the number of student volunteers on the Antique Dealer research project.  The ‘Art Market’ modules we run in the School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds are providing a steady steam of fantastic, and fantastically able, students, all willing to be involved in adding data to the Interactive Map website.  Our latest recruits, Layla Hillsden, Kenza Gray, Charlotte Ford and Marie-Louise Hanson, all level 2 undergraduate students on the ‘Art Market: Moments, Methodologies and Meanings’ module – shown here in the latest student volunteer photograph – have all started work uploading the mass of data we still need to add to the website.

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Layla, Charlotte, Kenza and Marie-Louise – student volunteers 2016.

Without such enthusiastic help and support it would take much, much longer to increase the amount of data in the Interactive Map, and  to begin the number-crunching that will allow new research questions to emerge!…so thank you again to all of our volunteers…and do keep you eye of the Project Interactive Map 

If anyone else is interested in volunteering, do drop me a line – there is training available.

Mark

November 23, 2016

New ‘BADA Voices’ Oral History Interview – Georgina Gough, of R.A. Lee

Our latest in the series of ‘BADA Voices’ Print Oral History interviews took place last month, and in the chair was Georgina Gough, daughter of the world-famous antique dealer Ronald A. Lee (d.2000).

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Georgina Gough. Photograph courtesy of Georgina Gough, 2016.

In this fascinating interview, Georgina tells us about the history of the family business, which started in the 1920s with her grandfather, Henry Morton Lee, a former hairdresser to King Edward VII, who opened an antique shop in Kingston-on-Thames.  By 1931 the business expanded and was renamed as H.M. Lee & Sons – and one gets a sense of the high quality antique furniture sold by H.M. Lee in this photograph of the stand of H.M. Lee at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair in the 1930s. Fine quality late 17th and early 18th century English furniture was at the height of taste during the second quarter of the 20th century.

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Stand of H.M. Lee & Sons at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair during the 1930s. Photograph courtesy of Georgina Gough.

Georgina’s uncle, Morton Henry Lee (‘Uncle Mo’, as Georgina tells us in the interview) joined his brother, Henry, during the early 1930s, and by the late 1930s Ronald Lee, Henry’s son, had joined the family business. ‘Uncle Mo’ eventually opened a separate antique shop in Chichester, specializing in French furniture – something that H.M. Lee was less interested in. And by 1949 Ronald A. Lee had established his own antique business at 1 The Terrace, Richmond Hill, Twickenham (where Georgina was born) – here again, is a photograph illustrating the high quality stock that was synonymous with the Lee family of antique dealers.

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The stand of R.A. Lee at The Grosvenor House Antiques Fair – c.1950. Photograph courtesy of Georgina Gough.

As many of you will know, Ronald Lee was a leading expert on English clocks, and indeed was the author of what still remains a key reference work on Knibb clocks – The Knibb Family of Clockmakers (1964). During the interview Georgina provides some fascinating insights into the antique trade during the period after WWII, as well as her personal memories of her father and other well known dealers at the time such as Roger Bluett, Ronnie Lock and Bob Williams.  Georgina also reminds us that as well as working with her father, she also worked for a number of other leading antique dealers a various points during her career in the antique trade, including the silver specialist Brand Inglis, and at one of the other leading English furniture specialists, Stair & Company – a firm that, like the Lee family of dealers, had roots back into the early decades of the 20th century.

As with all our Oral History interviews, we hope to make our interview with Georgina available on the project websites as soon as we are able.

Mark

 

November 19, 2016

More student volunteer researchers…

Thanks to our enthusiastic students at the University of Leeds we have another 4 student volunteers working on adding data to the Antique Dealer project Interactive Map. Students from the undergraduate module ‘The Art Market: Moments, Methodologies and Meanings’, in the School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies, have signed up as volunteer data entry researchers – Katie Bone, Olivia Dobson and Hannah Buckingham are all now official researchers for the project – and another of our Art Market PhD students has also signed up – Simon Spier, who is currently researching the formation of the collections at The Bowes Museum as one of our PhD Collaborative Doctoral Award students (University of Leeds & The Bowes Museum, and supervised by me…)

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Our latest student volunteers – Simon, Hannah, Olivia and Katie.

Here are our latest recruits!

Thank you to our 4 latest volunteers, and thank you too to the continuing work that our other volunteers are doing – I’ve been noticing that the interactive map has been increasing in data the last few weeks…it’s great to see the map grow!

Mark

November 7, 2016

The Real ‘Clara Millard’!

Thanks to some really amazing detective work by Laurence Worms, of Ash Rare Books, for unmasking the real ‘Clara Millard’ (see our entry on ‘Clara Millard’ in the blog post on the Antique Dealer project blog).  It seems that Millard was in fact Georgetta Elizabeth Dance (1862-1926), the ‘most successful book-huntress in the world’ it’s quite a story, so do read Laurence’s blog post on ‘The Book Hunter on Safari’.

Thanks too to Heidi Egginton for re-tweeting this in her Twitter feed too!

 

 

October 21, 2016

The Generosity of Auctioneers – more archive material from Sworders

Tim Turner from Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers, Stansted Mountfitchet, very kindly donated some antique dealer related material to the Antique Dealer research project – and thanks to Jacqueline Travell, also from Sworders, for bringing the package of materials all the way from Essex to Leeds last week (Jacqueline was up North to see her son, who coincidently is studying at the University of Leeds).

It is through the exceptionally generous nature of people like Tim and Jacqueline that the research project at the University of Leeds continues to progress – thank you Tim, Jacqueline, and Sworders. The material that has been donated ranges from a selection of Antique Fair handbooks, dealer catalogues, and antique collecting publications – dating from 1909 to the 1970s.sworders

The materials also include an amazing selection of invoices (dating from the 1940s-1970s) from a wide variety of Antique Dealers; these are invaluable to the research project – they give us, for example, key self-designated descriptions of the dealers themselves, dealer addresses, as well as often having detailed information on the people involved in the various businesses, not to mention the fascinating ways in which a variety of ‘antiques’ are described in the old invoices. dealer-invoices-sworders

Included in the materials are also some early antique dealer catalogues – one from Mallett & Son, dating from the 1930s – mallett

and one from The Parker Gallery (print dealers, rather than antique dealers per se), which seems to have been produced as a booklet celebrating 200 years of trading – The Parker Gallery was established in 1750, so the booklet suggests. parker-gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most interesting documents in the parcel of archive material, is a very early (probably 1920s?) furniture catalogue produced by the antique dealers and reproduction furniture makers, Arthur Brett & Sons – trading from Norwich. The booklet, titled, ‘Period Furniture’ contains a very wide range of reproduction furniture that Brett & Sons were manufacturing in the 1920s and 1930s.

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The catalogue is ordered chronologically, with ‘Tudor’ oak furniture in the opening pages, and includes reproductions of virtually every kind of antique furniture that was fashionable in the period. brett-1 brett-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brett catalogue demonstrates how popular furnishing with antique furniture was during the period between the Wars, with demand outstripping supply to the extent where reproductions filled the gap, satisfying the look of the old. It’s quite striking when one reflects on this today, with the rapid shift to the contemporary in the last decade or so – no doubt there are now masses of reproductions of Charles Eames chairs, instead of Thomas Chippendale – tastes change, but everything stays the same!

Anyway, thanks again to Tim and Jacqueline, and Sworders – the archive materials are already proving useful to the research project as we add more and more antique dealer data to the Project Interactive Map.

Mark

September 25, 2016

BADA Voices Interviews

Our project to capture the reflections and memories of antique dealers and people involved in the British Antique trade is one of the central research themes in the Antique Dealer project.  And thanks to the British Antique Dealers’ Association, who have very kindly given the project financial support, we are able to continue the oral history interviews – do check out the Oral History pages in the project website for more information of the support from the BADA and the new interviews that we have undertaken as part of the ‘BADA Voices’ initiative, see – Antique Dealer Project Oral History

PrintOf the two most recent interviews we have completed, one focused on the history of the BADA itself, in our interview with Mark Dodgson, Secretary General of the BADA.  The other interview, with the former antique dealer, agent, Forensic Appraiser and Expert Witness, Nicholas Somers, allowed us to capture some of Nicholas’ memories of the history of that most famous of antique furniture dealers, M. Harris & Sons, amongst many other things.

 

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Mark Dodgson, Sec Gen of the BADA. Photo courtesy of the BADA.

Mark Dodgson started at the BADA in 1989, as an assistant to the then Secretary General, Elaine Dean, before succeeding Elaine as Secretary General in 2008.

In this engaging interview Mark tells us about the history of the BADA – which was founded in 1918, and has the exciting prospect of their centenary celebrations coming up in 2018. Mark outlined the wide range of activities and projects that the BADA have been involved with over the years – as many of you will know, the BADA was initially founded by members of the antique trade in 1918 to lobby Government as a response to the proposed introduction of the so-called ‘luxury tax’, and the organisation has continued that tradition.  The BADA has been a central player in many of the most high-profile issues affecting the antique trade, from the introduction of Valued Added Tax and ‘margin scheme’ in the 1970s, the (still contentious) issue of the introduction of auction sales buyers premium in the 1970s, to the lively debates surrounding the restrictions on the sales of elephant ivory – currently animating (excuse the pun!) the art world at present.

Mark also talked about his role as Secretary of the Art Trade Liaisons Committee (The British Art Market Federation), and the history of the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair (founded in 1934 as an initiative by some key BADA members), as well as the more recent BADA Fair (established in 1991) and the BADA relationship with, and support for, the conservation courses at West Dean College. With the centenary of the BADA coming up in 2018, I’m sure the interview will be a valuable resource in those celebrations.

Our other interview in the BADA Voices series was with the retired antique dealer, agent, auctioneer, and Expert Witness, Nicholas Somers.

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Nicholas Somers, at his home in London. Photo Antique Dealer project, University of Leeds, 2016.

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Richard Grose, 8 Exhibition Road, London, c.1950.

Nicholas, currently the Master of the Worshipful Company of Turners (he has also been collecting treen for decades!) and has over 50 years experience of the antique trade.  Nicholas started his career in the world of antiques with the dealer Paul Smith (a BADA member) in 1965, before moving to work for Richard Grose at Exhibition Road in London.

In 1967 Nicholas left Richard Grose and became one of the sales team at the world-famous antique furniture dealers M. Harris & Sons, staying with Harris until 1971, when he set up his own antiques business in Worcester  – ‘Somers at the Sign of the Chair’.

Nicolas had some fascinating memories of working at Moss Harris – with some wonderfully evocative descriptions of the showrooms – the business was already contracting somewhat when Nicholas joined Robert Harris in 1967, and, as Nicholas tells us, the showrooms had been reduced by half, but it still had 80 rooms packed with museum-quality English furniture and objects when he joined the firm. Here is the gallery of Moss Harris, in New Oxford Street, London, in the early 1920s, soon after Moss Harris had taken over the firm of D.L. Isaacs, who established the business in 1868.

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M. Harris & Sons, New Oxford Street, London, c.1924.

Nicholas has an exceptionally wide ranging experience of the antique and art world, having been part of the management buy-out at the auctioneers Bearnes in Torquay, from the then parent company Sotheby’s, in 1981, and as a ‘forensic appraiser’  and Expert Witness in legal disputes in the art world.

Both interviews make rich contributions to the growing archive of antique trade interviews that we are assembling as part of the Antique dealer project.

Mark

 

 

 

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