Hannah Barlow and Doulton Lambeth


hannahbarlowdeerWhen considering the talented designers of the Doulton Lambeth factory, there is one woman whose impressive works cannot go unmentioned. Hannah Barlow was not only one of the most innovative and skilled designers of this famed factory but also a pioneer in her own right due to the fact that she was the ever first female artist to be employed by the South London based Doulton Lambeth Studio.

Pictured right: A pair of Hannah Barlow stoneware deer and stag vases impressed marks — 38cm. high. Sold for £2,820 at Christies, London, August 2000.

Born into a family of nine children in 1851, Hannah lived in Bishop’s Stortford with her Bank Manager father, Benjamin and his wife. At an early age Hannah already had a talent for drawing and would take walks in the surrounding countryside to sketch the plant and animal life that resided there. This interest in nature was something which would stay with Hannah throughout her life and became the subject matter that was so prolific in all of her future works. Realising her talent for art, in 1868 Hannah enrolled in the Lambeth School of Art to progress this skill. It was a few years later in 1871, that, along with other fellow students, Hannah began to work for the local Doulton Lambeth pottery which had recently diversified from producing industrial ceramics to more elaborate art pottery and decorative wares. Great artists such as George Tinworth, Frank Butler and Hannah Barlow would skilfully decorate the salt-glazed brown stoneware vessels that Doulton were now creating and were allowed to choose the type of decoration themselves and what shape of vessel to apply this design to.

 Hannah Barlow for Doulton Lambeth - A Pair of Salt-glazed Vases, circa 1895 each vase incised with three bulls and two horses grazing within a rugged countryAlthough Hannah was to be the first female designer employed by Doulton she was not the only talented artist in her family to join the British factory. Both her brother Arthur and sister Florence also possessed an artistic flare and attended the Lambeth School of Art, before joining their sister, and furthering their careers by working alongside her for the Doulton pottery. The two sisters, Hannah and Florence, both shared a love of nature, so it was agreed early on in their working careers, that Hannah would concentrate on designs inspired by animals whilst her sister indulged her passion for flowers and produce floral designs.

Pictured left: Hannah Barlow for Doulton Lambeth – A Pair of Salt-glazed Vases, circa 1895 each vase incised with three bulls and two horses grazing within a rugged country landscape 28.5cm high, with impressed Doulton Lambeth mark and incised artist’s monogram. Sold for £1,062 at Bonhams, London, April 2014.

Both were extremely talented artists and their work was very realistic. Each would initially sketch a design then using the technique of Sgraffito (incising) they would apply the design into the wet clay of a vessel before it was fired. Every piece that was produced by the artists at the Doulton studio was hand-decorated, thus ensuring that each item was unique in design, technique and decoration.

Hannah Barlow for Doulton Lambeth - An Early Salt-Glaze Jug with Horse, 1874 incised with a horse portrait and stylised leaf decorationHannah excelled at creating illustrations of animals with some of her favourite subjects being British farm animals such as sheep, horses and pigs. Many examples of her work have sold for respectable prices at salerooms all over the world; her works of art are highly sought after by collectors. Recently a shallow bowl dating to 1883 sold at Bonhams Saleroom for £2,300. Artistically incised with pigs and hens this piece is synonymous with Hannah Barlow and as such, commands a price that is expected for this female designer’s work. Another example, also sold at Bonhams. were an outstanding pair of early vases dating to 1873. These twin handled vessels were incised with six Trojan Style horses which showed them cantering and galloping across fields. An unusual example, this vase sold for a staggering hammer price of £4,800.

Pictured right: Hannah Barlow for Doulton Lambeth – An Early Salt-Glaze Jug with Horse, 1874 incised with a horse portrait and stylised leaf decoration 25.5cm high, with impressed Doulton Lambeth mark and incised artist monogram Sold for £325 at Bonhams, London, April 2014.

Aside from the more common domestic farm animals, Hannah was inspired by many different living creatures. Her work was often embellished with countryside inhabitants such as rabbits and foxes, but she also liked to draw and incise more exotic animal motifs such as lions and kangaroos. This Australian inhabitant first appeared in 1878 on a tea service and proved popular so Hannah continued to apply this motif to all sorts of other various shaped vessels. It is said that Hannah was possibly inspired to sketch and decorate pieces with kangaroos because of the preparations for the Sydney International Exhibition which took place in 1879.

Hannah Barlow (Fl.1871-1913) & Florence Barlow (Fl.1873-1909)  Pair Of Vases, Circa 1890  stoneware, hand decorated, incised with rabbits, and pâte-sur-pâte painted birdsWherever Hannah gained her inspiration, her skill became evident when she would expertly sketch a scene that almost came alive when applied to the various vases, dishes and jardinières that she worked on. Hannah’s talent for drawing, combined with her skilled eye for design ensured that each piece created was not only a stunning ceramic work of art but also a living window into the animal kingdom. Her work was worthy of a place on the wall in an art gallery.

Pictured left: Hannah Barlow (Fl.1871-1913) & Florence Barlow (Fl.1873-1909) Pair Of Vases, Circa 1890 stoneware, hand decorated, incised with rabbits, and pâte-sur-pâte painted birds, impressed Doulton Lambeth, incised artist’s monograms, numbers 443 & 742, assistants marks 7¾ in. (19.7 cm.) high. Sold for £4,375 at Christies, London, September 2009.

Hannah was prolific in her work during the forty years that she was employed by the British Doulton Studio, and was responsible for creating some of the most innovative and finest designs in stoneware. An accomplished artist, not only is she remembered as one of the most celebrated designers of the 19th Century but also as a pioneering female ceramicist whose work will hopefully continue to command the prices that are so deserving.

Fact File

  • Doulton & Co was founded in 1815.
  • In 1871 Henry Doulton set up the Lambeth Studio in South London Hannah Barlow indulged her passion for animals by keeping a private zoo.
  • Each of Hannah Barlow’s pieces are marked with the HB monogram.
  • Christie’s Held an exhibition of Hannah Barlow works in 1985.
  • Hannah died in 1916 and is buried at Norwood cemetery along with her sister.

From an article by Tracy Martin, originally published in ARC Magazine.

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