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Martin Brothers Pottery For Auction

Considered to be the pioneers of transitioning England away from decorative Victorian ceramics and heralding in the 20th-century studio pottery movement, Martinware pottery has been popular with collectors especially since the 1970s, after an exhibition in Belgravia in 1978 did much to revive interest in their wares. The Martin Brothers are best known for their range of eccentric “Wally Bird” sculptures, which tend to be their most popular creations, as well as bowls and vessels decorated with sea creatures.

Potteries Auctions can identify and provide valuations on a wide range of Martin Brothers Pottery pieces.

Popular Martin Brothers Items at Auction

Lot 739
Martin Brothers Stoneware vase decorated with various fish, snakes and jellyfish

Sold September 2020

Sale Price £3,700

Lot 740
Martin Brothers Stoneware vase decorated with embossed jellyfish

Sold September 2020

Sale Price £580

Lot 741
Martin Brothers Stoneware smiling Imp figure playing the tambourine

Sold September 2020

Sale Price £2,500

Lot 742
Martin Brothers Stoneware Imp figure playing the trumpet

Sold September 2020

Sale Price £1,200

Lot 743
Martin Brothers Stoneware Imp figure playing the cymbals

Sold September 2020

Sale Price £1,800

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Whether you are looking to buy or sell Martin Brothers pottery, the team of experts at Potteries Auctions can help you find the piece you are looking for, or value your items for sale.  Request a call back if you are looking for a valuation and are seeking to sell some Martin Brothers collector pieces at auction.

Martin Brothers Stoneware & Pottery Facts

  • Their most flamboyant design period was from about 1880-1900, and after 1900 their designs simplified somewhat, under the influence of Art Nouveau and Japonism.
  • Each of the four brothers had distinct roles within their studio; Robert Wallace was the self-appointed figurehead of the factory and was principally responsible for sculpting. Charles ran the shop and gallery at High Holborn, Edwin was the principle decorator and Walter the expert thrower.
  • A new record auction price of US$ 196,000 was set in 2015 in New York for one of their pieces, a 14in “wally bird” jar from 1889.

The History of Martin Brothers Pottery

The Martin Brothers – Robert Wallace, Charles, Edwin and Walter – were four brothers and pottery manufacturers in London that produced distinctive stoneware pottery from the 1870s and sporadically through to 1923.

The Pottery was first started in Fulham in 1873 by Robert Wallace, who had trained as a sculptor, until 1877 where the business was moved to Havelock Road in Middlesex and remained there until its close after Robert Wallace’s death, the last remaining brother, in 1923. Several of the brothers would ultimately go on to be buried in the cemetery along the road from the Havelock Road studio.

The brothers used a salt glaze method on their stoneware to give the pottery a rough surface, which was achieved by throwing salt into the kiln during the process. This then fused with the clay and created a surface which could be glassy or matte, depending on the conditions of each firing, and gave the pieces an ‘orange-peel’ texture.

They usually worked with a subdued palette of browns, greens, greys and blues, which would become distinctive of Martinware pottery. They built their own kiln and used a single high temperature when firing the ceramics, exposing the pottery to the flame. This provided them with many problems, however, as their homemade kilns often failed and their creations most of the time came out faulty. In some cases, only one piece would come out correct.

Some of the best known of their wares are the gothic-inspired ‘grotesques’, modelled by Robert Wallace. They include comical spoon warmers, musical imps, face jugs and the iconic Wally bird jars, which were usually inspired by the people and public figures of Victorian London. Size, species, date, colouring and condition are all important when assessing these grotesques for sale at auction, but character is often the key to the high prices paid in recent years.

Martinware has always been popular with collectors, including Queen Mary who, in 1914, ordered 60 pieces to be exhibited at the Paris Exposition. Many of the brothers’ works are now seen as national treasures and are highly sought-after collectible pieces. The prices over the years have massively increased and continue to grow in price each year.

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Potteries Auctions can collect items for auction from anywhere in the UK, and we can also handle large collections from all over the world, so just get in touch with us to discuss.  We pride ourselves in our packing and shipping service to get goods out to purchasers, making it a perfect solution for buyers who can’t attend auctions in person.

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