Robert Johnson Washington

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Post by NaomiM December 5th 2020, 6:44 pm

Obituary:


Robert Johnson Washington, potter and educator: born London 2 May 1913; married 1939 Marjorie Terry (died 1996; one son), 1996 Su Lapesco (one daughter); died Little Baddow, Essex 17 November 1997.

Robert Washington was as inventive and creative in his teaching as he was in his ceramics.

Born in south-east London, Bob Washington showed early promise as an artist, entering Goldsmiths' College in 1930 to study painting before moving on to the RCA. After three years in the painting school he went to the pottery department. The department was headed by William Staite Murray, one of the leading potters in Britain, an influential and charismatic if sporadic teacher. Murray had firm views about the status of pots, distancing himself from their craft associations and arguing that pots should be seen as fine art, an attitude which seemed entirely right to Washington, one of the liveliest students.

Teaching at Derby College of Art was interrupted by war service m. After the war, Washington resumed teaching ceramics at Derby, making an impression on the students as a conscientious and dedicated lecturer, going on to become principal first of Dewsbury and then Margate schools of art. He maintained his own studio too, producing pots under the clear influence of Murray, but with his own idiosyncratic interpretation of the figure; and exhibited in the Festival of Britain.

After a nomadic life moving his family round the country, he was appointed Art Inspector for Essex. Retirement in 1979 brought fresh opportunities and a renaissance in his work with clay. He was ever alert to new developments within ceramics. At this time he was best known for his impressive tall, thrown bottle forms with a strong anthropomorphic element, an impression heightened by his use of spiky painted decoration depicting female figures which seemed to be engaging with the pot, giving the work the added edge of surrealism. He had. solo exhibition at Anatol Orient gallery in London in 1988 he made a comeback with a series of new work consisting of large platters which were inventive in both their imagery and surface treatment. Work was also shown at Paul Rice, London. A new relationship with a young ceramic student, Su Lapesco, stimulated his experimental approach to clay, leading him to investigate cratered and textured glazes and to integrate such effects into his ceramics.

One of Washington's major contributions to ceramics was to continue the fight for its recognition as fine art


Last edited by NaomiM on May 27th 2021, 1:20 pm; edited 4 times in total

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Post by NaomiM December 5th 2020, 6:47 pm

Robert Johnson Washington  6dbd6610
Robert Johnson Washington  49295a10
Robert Johnson Washington  4ed80310

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Post by philpot December 6th 2020, 7:32 am

That is an interesting one Naomi. Quite different to his usual pieces seen around at auction and Museums. Big tall vases with figurative work in the William Staite Murray tradition are what you see. His reputation has somewhat diminished now, but his pots fetched substantial prices at auction not so long ago.
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Post by denbydump December 6th 2020, 9:08 am

He had some connection with Denby pottery, maybe when he was teaching in Derby.
I really don't remember where I heard that, and no mention in the Denby book.
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Post by NaomiM December 6th 2020, 9:40 am

It’s the first mark in his entry in the Marks book so an early piece I expect. Shouldn’t really discuss value but it’s ¬£75 in a local antiques shop and I was going to email the dealer with the ID. Seems about the right price to me for something that’s not his signature style.


Last edited by NaomiM on December 10th 2020, 9:37 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Post by philpot December 6th 2020, 1:49 pm

Probably worth all of that or more just as it is. That slip work is very nice. Nice buy. Time is just about right for a re-evaluation of his work, given that studio pottery prices have increased lately. He was a Very Good Artist Potter.
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Post by NaomiM December 6th 2020, 3:59 pm

Deserves to be in a Museum really. Lovely large vase. Possibly a lead glaze; always gives a nice sheen.

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Post by philpot December 6th 2020, 7:12 pm

Interesting, there is a Washington Foundation which celebrates the work of William Washington and his son R.J. Washington. They started giving an annual student bursary in 2015.
Link to the Washington site which gives some information and pictures of his work.
http://www.thewashingtonfoundationuk.com/rj-washington/4587392716
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Post by philpot December 6th 2020, 7:53 pm

There is also a 32 film called OUT OF THE TUB which in on Youtube. It shows a lot of his late work which is quite, quite extraodinary and also has interviews with him Anatol Orient, David Whiting and Martin Smith. It is really worth watching
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aMZqV6wMBcs
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Post by studio-pots December 8th 2020, 8:45 pm

The Foundation, film etc. are all the work of his widow, Su. She was considerably younger than him. She has tried to keep his reputation alive. She lives in part of the property they shared in Essex.

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Post by studio-pots December 8th 2020, 8:46 pm

NaomiM wrote:It’s the first mark in his entry in the Marks book so an early piece I expect. Shouldn’t really discuss value but it’s ¬£75 in a local antiques shop and I was going to email the dealer with the ID. Seems about the right price to me for something that’s not his signature style.

I think far better that you buy it............. but ask for trade.

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Post by NaomiM December 10th 2020, 10:15 pm

Got it Excellent

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Post by studio-pots December 11th 2020, 3:50 pm

Well done. What is the height?

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Post by studio-pots December 11th 2020, 4:50 pm

A later stoneware by R. J. Washington.

Robert Johnson Washington  Rjw_7b11

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Post by studio-pots January 28th 2021, 11:47 am

Robert Johnson Washington  Rjw_r10

A tall stoneware pot with fairly typical decoration.

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Post by NaomiM January 28th 2021, 12:21 pm

studio-pots wrote:Well done. What is the height?

It’s pretty big. I’ve left it at my mums; I’ll add the measurement next time I visit,

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Post by studio-pots January 28th 2021, 3:12 pm

In the last few years before "Bob" died he made some completely different work.

I was given a few pieces by Su, his widow, to sell on a SOR basis and below is one that I did move on.

These pieces were not signed but the number on the base is the number of the piece in the Catalogue Raisonné compiled by Su.

Robert Johnson Washington  Rjw_ex10

Robert Johnson Washington  Rjw_ex11

Robert Johnson Washington  Rjw_ex12

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Post by philpot December 22nd 2021, 12:30 pm

https://www.sworder.co.uk/auction/details/a1001-design---two-day-sale/?au=1010

There are 66 Lots of Robert J Washington's paintings and ceramics in the Sworders sale at the end of January. Probably the largest amount of his work to come to auction. There is also some work by his father William Washington.
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Post by studio-pots December 22nd 2021, 3:04 pm

They will have come from his widow, Su. I haven't been in contact with her for a few years and so would be interested to know why she has done this.

The drawings/sketches are from his studio and are part of the pot making process rather than produced to be finished works of art. For example, some will be sketches on tracing paper that were used to produce the actual pottery surface design. That isn't to suggest that they are of no worth, as for me, it makes them even more interesting.


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Post by croker December 22nd 2021, 3:08 pm

I have had it confirmed that the pots are being sold on behalf of his wife and are from the Washington foundation.
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Post by studio-pots December 22nd 2021, 3:11 pm

but they didn't tell you why?

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Post by croker December 22nd 2021, 3:18 pm

No the person in charge of the sale will not be back until early Jan and that's all the information available at the moment, i wonder if the foundation has closed as nothing seems to be open online.
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Post by studio-pots December 22nd 2021, 3:24 pm

The Foundation was set up and run by Su, his widow. The purpose was to have a permanent legacy for Bob and his father. I have put more under the Sworders sale entry but my thinking is that it could be for health reasons but I am only guessing because I have been in contact with Su for several years.

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Post by croker December 22nd 2021, 4:06 pm

I wonder what sort of reserves these lots have (if any) as in my experience in these cases when vendors put items in auctions on mass they rarely want any returns and when i've bought from deceased studio sales some items slip through for a pittance. I think the problem for the Washington pieces are that as much as i rate some of them they are not an easy sell in the saleroom , for instance the few at MAAK in recent years have mostly been unsold.
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Post by dantheman December 22nd 2021, 5:18 pm

I have been asking the widow if I can buy 2 of those pieces for the last 10 months and now she has put them in auction with no word Shock

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