Paolozzi – The precursor to Pop Art

Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi was born in Scotland in 1924 to Italian immigrant parents who ran a small ice-cream parlour in Leith. Paolozzi studied art at Edinburgh College of Art and London’s Slade School. Inspired by the sweet packets, cigarette cards and matchboxes sold in his father’s shop, as early as the 1940s Paolozzi used imagery of modern machinery and pinup girls in his artwork, pre-empting the pop art movement which emerged in America in the 1950s.

This work ‘Philadelphia Print’ from the Worcester City Collection is one of 100 made for the 1971 exhibition Silkscreen: History of the Medium at the Museum of Modern Art in Philadelphia. It is an example of how complex, detailed and colourful silkscreen printing can be in the hands of a master.

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From Bromsgrove to church windows across the world

The beautiful work of Worcestershire stained glass artist Archibald John Davies can be found in at least 250 windows in over 100 churches and cathedrals across the globe.

Davies grew up in Birmingham and trained at the Birmingham School of Art, then continuing to work in its famous Arts & Crafts style. Initially he ran his own studio in Moseley until Walter Gilbert, the charismatic founder of the Bromsgrove Guild, persuaded him to join.

Davies set up his stained glass studio in the Bromsgrove Guild premises in 1906, and many great glass craftsmen learned and developed their trade under his guidance. Davies himself particularly enjoyed working with rare forms of continental glass that are now no longer made. He continued leading the studio until his death in 1953.

These evocative photographs of a window design and a window being installed are from the Bromsgrove Guild archive in the Worcestershire County Museum collection.

The Worcestershire Sauce Makers of Midland Road

After being created by Messers Lea and Perrins in their Broad Street Chemist shop in 1837, the now legendary Worcestershire Sauce became their biggest seller and necessitated the purchase of additional stores and premises around Worcester to cope with demand.

Charles William Dyson Perrins was amongst those who considered a factory a necessity to take the business forwards. Purchasing land from the Midland Railway, now known as Midland Road, a purpose built sauce factory was designed and construction completed in 1897. Its iconic orange gates and distinctive aromas are still in place 120 years later.

A serous factory fire in 1964 is still remembered by many Worcester residents. It gutted the existing roof and clock tower, but in true Lea and Perrins style, production was soon back in operation. Through the great efforts of their workers and office staff, including clerks working in nearby Stanley Road School, production resumed just 10 days later.

There were, and still are, many imitators, but the Original and Genuine Worcestershire Sauce is still manufactured in Worcester. The Lea and Perrins collection is on permanent display at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum and includes the original lignite jug used to manufacture the sauce. Their loan is by kind permission of Kraft Heinz.

Cupids by Bernardo Arniconi, 19th Century

Very little is known about Bernardo Arniconi, the Italian painter of this oil painting Cupids which came to Worcester City Art Gallery in 1850 as part of the Reverend G D Bowles collection, and was one of the first artworks to come into the Worcester city collection.

In Roman mythology, Cupid is the son of Venus and Mars – the gods of love and war. He is usually depicted with a bow and arrow. As there are two of these figures and they don’t have his characteristic arrow its likely they are not supposed to be Cupid himself but amorino: cherubs or putti representing non-religious passion – figures of love and compassion. Putto are adorably chubby male babies with wings, what we usually think of as cherubs. However in early Jewish and Christian literature, a cherub was actually a creature with multiple wing and four faces, one human, as well as an ox, a lion and an eagle. Putto came to be part of the imagery of Christmas following Italian renaissance artworks representing them as part of scenes of the Madonna and child.

The Royal Oak

This stool from the Worcester City museum collection was made from a root of the Royal Oak in 1832, an English oak tree with a famous tale.

The story goes that after Charles II fled from the Battle of Worcester in 1651, he hid in an oak tree at Boscobel House in Shropshire. Parliamentarian soldiers passed under the branches but somehow he avoided capture and eventually escaped to France.

When Charles returned to the throne on 29 May 1660, it was declared a holiday called Oak Apple Day. The Royal Oak was celebrated until so many parts were taken to make souvenirs like this one that the original tree was destroyed, although its descendants live on.

The enduring popularity of this story led to the ‘Royal Oak’ being the third most popular pub name in Britain today, with at least 6 Royal Oak pubs in Worcestershire.

F.J Cock’s Sewing Machines

Sewing machines were one of the first machines to enter the family household and during the 19th century they came in a large array of distinctive shapes as manufacturers sought the ideal design. This model from the Worcester City collection was used in Worcester’s renowned glove-making industry during the early 20th century.

At the turn of the century sewing machines were starting to look more alike – partly influenced by the success of the Singer sewing machine. The foot pedal, called a treadle, succeeded the former hand-cranked models. The treadle took a while to catch on in Britain, where it was seen as an unladylike movement and bad for the ankles, but would have made larger-scale production significantly easier.

Early machines were beautifully decorated, and this one has a dark finish with contrasting golden floral designs on the base, the arm and the wheel and an unusual sailing ship motif on the base. One theory is that machines were associated with industry and engineering, so the ornamentation made the sewing machine feel more appropriate in a domestic setting.

F. J. Cock was a distributor with branches in Birmingham and Coventry. He sold many ‘badged’ machines which were models made by other manufacturers but specially labelled for the shop or department store that sold them.

This machine is mounted onto a treadle table with cast iron sides that read “Cocks” and has no model name on the arm or company trade-mark revealing its maker. However the central decal of a schooner (sailing boat) at sea reveals it as the ‘Original Victoria’ made by the German firm Mundlos & Co., manufactured from 1896 onwards.

The Beacons are lit!

This engraving is part of Worcester City’s collection, and illustrates a fire being built atop the Worcestershire Beacon.

As the highest point in the Malvern Hills, the Beacon has historically been used as part of a chain of signalling fires, used to pass messages of approaching danger across the country. The Worcestershire Beacon formed part of the chain of warning fires lit in response to the arrival of the Spanish Armada in 1588. During World War II, the Beacon was also used as a look-out point for fires after air-raids on both Birmingham and Coventry.

Throughout the nineteenth century, beacons became a popular form of celebration, used to commemorate national events such as Coronations, Jubilees and even the end of the Crimean War in 1856. We think this engraving depicts the construction of a beacon in celebration of the marriage of the Prince of Wales in 1863.

These celebratory beacons were impressive in scale and often complex. Some included chimneys in order to ensure a good blaze, whilst others utilised the help of local construction companies. In this example, tons of wooden barrels can be seen making their way to the summit by horse and cart, and workers are assembling bundles of gorse atop a wooden platform to form a core of kindling.

The Worcestershire Beacon continues to be used during National celebrations, having seen fires lit for the Millennium and the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees.

Kate Banner
Collections Volunteer

William Callow’s view of Worcester

When William Callow held his retrospective exhibition in London in 1907, he was described as the ‘oldest living British artist’. At ninety-five, he’d lived through and painted some of the biggest changes in the English landscape. This watercolour of Worcester painted around 1850 shows the city on the cusp of major industrial development: still a charming and verdant scene, but with the Severn trow barges busy on the river and chimney smoke rising in the distance.

Callow’s early life was a whirlwind of society glamour – aged only nineteen he was offered a job teaching the family of the French King Louis Philippe I. Supposedly he fell in love with his young pupil Princess Clementine, but she sadly did not return his feelings. In his late twenties Callow returned to England, married, and settled into his career as a watercolour artist. His paintings became larger and, like this one of Worcester, reflected a more mature outlook, both in himself and in the landscapes he pictured.

Hallow Handaxe

In 1970, a field at Moseley Farm near Hallow was ploughed for the first time in 40 years, ready for a crop of potatoes. A sharp-eyed observer, identity unknown, spotted a peculiar piece of flint on the surface and took it to Worcester City Museum.

Hewn into a teardrop-shape by overlapping chips that left tell-tale ripples radiating from the edges, it is a Stone Age flint handaxe in remarkably fresh condition. It comes from the top of gravel deposits formed between 240 and 130 thousand years ago. During the earlier, warmer part of this period, small groups of early humans called Neanderthals moved along the river valleys, before climate change drove them from Britain for more than 120 thousand years.

But this find is at the heart of a scientific puzzle: tools like these were outdated by the time the Hallow gravel was formed. Some scholars argue that handaxes of this date had been tumbled in rivers for millennia by the time they ended up in the gravels where they’re discovered, but this example shows none of the battering you would expect from such treatment. So, is this artefact one of the final clues left by a dwindling band of Neanderthal settlers, the last to lay human eyes on Worcestershire for 6000 generations?

Rob Hedge

Lost Landscapes Project Officer