Midlands Link in Dresser Sale

By Grimley, Terry | The Birmingham Post (England), June 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

Midlands Link in Dresser Sale


Grimley, Terry, The Birmingham Post (England)


The largest collection of work by the pioneering Victorian designer Christopher Dresser ever offered for sale goes on display at a gallery in London tomorrow.

Dresser (1834-1904), whose geometric designs are sometimes startling anticipations of the modern movement, had strong links with the West Midlands through several of the manufacturers for whom he designed metalwork, including Elkingtons and Hukin and Heath in Birmingham, Richard Perry and Chubb in Wolverhampton and Coalbrookdale in Shropshire. He also designed glass for Thomas Webb of Stourbridge.

There is also a Birmingham link with the exhibition, at New Century in Kensington, because the catalogue has been produced by local architectural photographer Alastair Carew-Cox, who last year published a booklet on Burne-Jones's stained glass in the Birmingham area.

As well as colour illustrations of around 300 items available for sale - spanning furniture, textiles, glass and ceramics as well as metalwork - the book contains an overview of Dresser's work for which Carew-Cox has travelled round the country to photograph work in private collections as far apart as Brighton and Cumbria.

The link is Harry Lyons, proprietor of New Century and a leading authority on Dresser as well as a dealer in his work.

"He's been buying stuff up for years and years, saving up for this exhibition," Alastair Carew-Cox said. "It's the biggest selling exhibition there has ever been, and there will never be another one like it. The Victoria and Albert Museum will be buying some things but we're not sure what; the Metropolitan Museum, New York, called and said they wanted everything on one page."

Dresser's importance in the history of design has become increasingly recognised in recent years, which has been reflected in the auction prices fetched by the metalwork in particular.

Yet he remains a shadowy figure, whose face is usually only seen in a blurred picture taken late in life. In the book, a newly discovered photograph, much earlier and better-quality portrait has been published for the first time.

Although a close contemporary of William Morris, Dresser by contrast, embraced mass production, anticipating the modern role of the industrial designer. …

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