Ethel WARBURTON, Bowl with incised decoration Enlarge 1 /4
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Glen Innes, New South Wales, Australia 1894 – 1992

Bowl with incised decoration 1920 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: ceramics, earthenware, glazed earthenware

Primary Insc: 'EM Beavis 1920' incised into base
Dimensions: 9.5 h 23.0 diameter cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2008
Accession No: NGA 2008.830

The Australian ceramicist and porcelain painter Ethel Warburton was born in Glen Innes, New South Wales, in 1894 and died in Sydney in 1992. She studied, as Ethel Beavis, at Sydney Technical College from 1912, taking art classes there from 1914. In 1918 she began a three-year pottery course, making a range of Art Nouveau-inspired pieces with incised and multi-glazed decoration on press-moulded shapes from the college’s stock of moulds. She joined the Society of Arts and Crafts of New South Wales in 1921 and married in 1920, setting up her own studio for china painting in her home in Cremorne, New South Wales. While exhibiting regularly with the Society of Arts and Crafts from the early 1920s, she took further classes at East Sydney Technical College from 1928 to advance her overglaze painting practice.

Her work from the 1920s and 1930s was characterised by reductive, geometric designs painted on imported European and English porcelain blanks and was often based on Australian flora imagery. Some designs, particularly those with fine black-lined graphic motifs, were developed in collaboration with her engineer-husband, Raymond Warburton, himself a skilled amateur craft-worker. She was recognised as a leading ceramic artist in New South Wales during her most active years as a china painter from 1930 to 1965.

These pieces (Bowl with incised decoration 1920, Tall vase 1920, Bowl with nasturtium decoration 1920), from a recently acquired group of ceramic works from Warburton’s early years of practice reveal the development of her distinctive design and decorating style. The influence of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British and American Arts and Crafts ceramics can be seen in the organisation of the design elements of each work. They add to Warburton’s representation in the national collection and allow a fuller picture to be gained of the work of an influential Australian craft artist of the early twentieth century.


Robert Bell
Senior Curator, Decorative Arts and Design
in artonview, issue 57, autumn 2009

in artonview, issue 57, autumn 2009