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Charlotte Rhead (1885-1947)

Biography of the English ceramicist Charlotte Rhead (1885-1947)

Charlotte Antoinette Adolphine (Lottie) Rhead (1885-1947) was born on the 19th October 1885 as the fourth child of Frederick Alfred Rhead (1856-1933) and his wife Adolphine and was to become one of six siblings, four of whom worked within the ceramics industry.

From an early age, Rhead was something of a sickly child who was prone to stomach complaints and at the age of eight fractured femur, all of which conspired to keep her from school. The result of which was that her education suffered and she became somewhat shy.

However, from the age of twelve her father, who was employed at Wileman & Co, introduced her to the tubelining technique by bringing home clay, slips and tubelining bags. By 1903, after a short stint at the Fenton Art School, at the age of sixteen she and her sister were competent enough to join her elder brother and father at Wileman & Co.

When her father left, so did Rhead only to be found a position at Keeling & Co, but as they didn't use tubelining, this proved to be a stopgap. After a shorter stay at the Cauldon Pottery, it seemed like the perfect job when in 1908 Rhead was employed in a business part-owned by her father - Barker Rhead & Co (Atlas Tile Works). However, after only two years this business folded leaving her family in considerable hardship.

When her father left for a short stay in America, Rhead continued decorating tiles for T & R Boote possibly joining her father, on his return in 1912, at Wood & Co (Bursley Ware).

Rhead finally got her independent break as a designer for Burgess & Leigh (Burleigh) in 1926, only to leave left four years later to fulfil a similar post at AG Richardson (Crown Ducal) until 1941 where she completed her career with HJ Woods.

Rhead's career, certainly during her formative years, seemed largely under the shadow of her family, although their can be no doubt she was a talented designer who managed to merge aesthetic concerns with a sharp commercial sense. Testament to the view is the fact that her career spanned 44 years. Rhead's early work possessed a rather 'olde worlde' charm about it that later evolved into her signature Art Deco work.

Charlotte Rhead is often, rather unfairly, seen as a lesser practitioner of Art Deco in comparison to Clarice Cliff or Susie Cooper, which is a shame as her technique and commercial eye were second to none, though maybe in comparison her design was more traditional and less avant garde than her contemporaries.

Perhaps, Charlotte Rhead's clean living and Catholic upbringing was seen as unfashionable. She never married and a mixture of her small stature, sporadic illness and her rather insular family life contributed to an almost crushing shyness (there are few photographs of her and none show her looking at the camera) that meant she was no self publicist.

She worked right up until her untimely death from breast cancer on 6th November 1947.

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Charlotte Rhead (1885-1947) Related Lots

Lot FS22/589

Lot FS22/589: Charlotte Rhead For Wood & Sons A Pair of Jars and Covers

Charlotte Rhead for Wood & Sons a pair of jars and covers each of oviform with domed covers tubelined in the Persian pattern with a cream band of green, blue, turquoise, yellow and red spiky leaves and buds above a blue ground, 26cm high, printed mark and painted X.775, circa 1915, covers restored.

Estimate: £300 - £350
Realised: £280

Lot FS21/576

Lot FS21/576: Charlotte Rhead, A Tube-lined Rectangular Tile

Charlotte Rhead, a tube-lined rectangular tile decorated with Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat guarding the shield of Lancelot, signed with initials 'L R.', 30 x 15cm, glaze imperfections. The composition is taken from an illustration by George Woolliscroft Rhead for an 1898 publication of Tennyson's Idylls of the King, a copy of which is included in the lot. The volume was illustrated in partnership with Louis Rhead raising the possibility that the tile was tubelined by him rather than Charlotte.

Estimate: £300 - £500
Realised: £3,500

Lot FS21/552

Lot FS21/552: Charlotte Rhead For T & R Boote, A Tube-lined Pottery Rectangular Tile; and A Pen and Ink Drawing by Frederick Rhead

Charlotte Rhead for T & R Boote, a tube-lined pottery rectangular tile; and a pen and ink drawing by Frederick Rhead the tile decorated with the front aspect of a large crenellated country house and garden, possibly Hawarden Castle, Flintshire, the former home of Sir William Gladstone, signed L Rhead, impressed factory mark, 15.5 x 12.5cm in original oak frame; together with a pen and ink drawing by Frederick Rhead of the same property, signed, 30 x 22cm (2).

Estimate: £300 - £500
Realised: £880

Lot FS21/574

Lot FS21/574: Charlotte Rhead, A Tube-lined Rectangular Tile

Charlotte Rhead, a tube-lined rectangular tile decorated with a Georgian-style three-storied house, signed 'L. Rhead 1910', 8 x 12cm in parcel gilt oak frame.

Estimate: £200 - £400
Realised: £520

Lot FS21/572

Lot FS21/572: Charlotte Rhead, A Pair of Tube-lined Tiles

Charlotte Rhead, a pair of tube-lined tiles decorated with Dutch child flower sellers, backstamps for T & R Boote Ltd., 15.5 x 8cm in later gilt frames. (2).

Estimate: £200 - £400
Realised: £620

Lot FS21/558

Lot FS21/558: Charlotte Rhead, A Tube-lined Rectangular Tile

Charlotte Rhead, a tube-lined rectangular tile decorated with a view across the Minster Pool to 'Lichfield Cathedral in 1548', signed L Rhead, 14 x 25.5cm, in gilt frame.

Estimate: £200 - £400
Realised: £700

Lot FS21/555

Lot FS21/555: Charlotte Rhead, A Painted and Lightly Tube-lined Small Tile

Charlotte Rhead, a painted and lightly tube-lined small tile decorated with the rear view of four puppies, moulded signature to verso 'L. Rhead 1910', 4 x 8cm in original parcel gilt oak frame.

Estimate: £200 - £400
Realised: £420

Lot FS21/564

Lot FS21/564: Charlotte Rhead, A Pair of Tube-lined Tiles

Charlotte Rhead, a pair of tube-lined tiles decorated with a Dutch boy and girl wearing traditional dress, one signed ' L. Rhead 1910', the other 'L. Rhead', 23 x 8cm in oak frames (2).

Estimate: £200 - £400
Realised: £620

Lot FS21/562

Lot FS21/562: Charlotte Rhead, A Tube-lined Square Tile

Charlotte Rhead, a tube-lined square tile decorated with the portrait of a Dutch girl wearing an ornate scarf, a landscape beyond, signed 'L. Rhead 1910', backstamp for T & R Boote Ltd., 15cm in parcel gilt frame.

Estimate: £200 - £400
Realised: £1,100

Lot FS21/563

Lot FS21/563: Charlotte Rhead, Two Tube-lined Square Tiles

Charlotte Rhead, two tube-lined square tiles each decorated with the portrait of a young woman wearing a ribbon-tied bonnet, a cottage beyond, one initialled 'L R', 15.5cm [one with chip] in parcel gilt oak frames (2).

Estimate: £200 - £400
Realised: £650

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