Published 2nd December 2013
Original studies, sketches or notes that predate a finished work can often add colour and depth to an object or artwork. It can also provide a privileged insight into the creator’s thoughts. The Rhead Cronin Collection does allow such insight, but unusually it is into a whole family who it seems were particularly close.
Tennyson's Idylls of the King and a signed Charlotte Rhead plaque (FS21)
Certainly at one time, four of it’s members Frederick Alfred Rhead, Frederick Hurten Rhead, Charlotte Rhead and Dollie Rhead were all working under one roof for Wileman & Co and there are many times when two family members were working for the same company at the same time. Hardly surprising then to see the family both worked together and borrowed ideas and inspiration from each other. Three of the Rhead brothers George, Louis and Frederick provided the illustrations for an 1898 edition of Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress and the former pair also illustrated a version of Tennyson’ Idylls of the King in the same year. As you can see from the attached image, Charlotte in turn used one of the engravings of Elaine with the shield of Lancelot as inspiration for a tubelined pottery plaque of her own.
A signed and dated Charlotte Rhead plaque and the source watercolour (FS21)
What is more intriguing is the watercolour of a bungalow, which with some artistic licence, has been used by Charlotte Rhead for another plaque, which she has signed and dated 1910 on the reverse. It raises a number of questions, was it family home and perhaps given as a gift? It may have been a commission but that seems unlikely.
A Charlotte Rhead plaque tubelined with a baby (FS21)
The same questions could also be asked of the sensitively rendered portrait of a baby tubelined by Charlotte onto another plaque. It has all the look of a family photograph although I can’t get the ridiculous thought out of my head of Charlotte bag in one hand and blank tile in the other ‘tubelining from life’ She was certainly known to have used her pets as inspiration so I really believe that this infant must be related to her.