Endearing Freaks? The Martin Brothers Potters

Eccentric and idiosyncratic, the work of the Martin Brothers both inspires devotion and the raising of eyebrows by critics. With their distinctive Wally birds, the Martin Brothers have made their mark on the world of antiques forging their way into the hearts of the British public over Sunday night tea in the Antiques Roadshow. The exhibition is open weekends only until 13 November.

About the exhibition

Our mini respective exhibition at Standen takes the debate around this distinctive trio of potters one step further. It proposes that the Martin Brothers were pioneers who shaped the development of British pottery.

House Manager, Ben Dale’s enthusiasm is infectious: “the sense of mystery, menacing and intrigue is unmistakable. This exhibition celebrates the work of these remarkable craftsmen, looks at what influenced and inspired them and their impact on the development of Art pottery.”

This Wally Bird by the Martin Brothers is on loan to Standen from Knightshayes
A Martin Brothers Wally bird

Who were the Martin Brothers?

The Martin Brothers were based in London at a time of great change, and their work is considered to mark the transition between decorative Victorian ceramics and twentieth century studio pottery. This exhibition will capture the pioneering brothers’ fearless sense of experimentation.

" The Martin Brothers must be considered among the great British artist-craftsmen, not just the endearing freaks they have too often been considered."
- Bevis Hillier
The Martin Brothers at work in their studio
The Martin Brothers at work in their studio

The Antiques Roadshow's David Battie

Our house team are not alone in admiring the eccentric Englishness of their output. David Battie of the Antiques Roadshow, says:

“After six months as a porter in the ceramics department at Sotheby’s, I still hated pots. Then in came a Martin Brothers Bird Jar - and I was a convert.”
 
“Trying to fire a stoneware kiln was, at best, risky. When the output resulted in only a few perfect pots, you have a Greek tragedy.”
 
“Salt-glazed stoneware, whose claim to fame had formally been as sewer pipes, in the hands of the Southall Three was transformed into objects of humour, beauty and utility”.
 

What's happening at Standen?

The works on show by the Martin Brothers at Standen include both the recognisable, large scale works, but also smaller, rarely seen vases with intriguing surfaces and glazes. Other works are simply the Martin Brothers at their most esoteric and loveable.

The Martin Brothers were inspired by nature in their later works, as seen in the shapes and glaze surfaces here.
A group of pots by the Martin Brothers

This exhibition brings together an often overlooked part of Standen’s collection and other pieces of Martinware borrowed from the Hull Grundy Collection (owned by Ealing Borough Council), Royal Albert Memorial Museum (Exeter), Holburne Museum (Bath) other National Trust places. Complementing the Martinware display are pieces inspired by the brothers works from the Burslem Pottery, also available to buy in our shop (see http://www.burslempottery.com

On view will be a variety of the Martin Brothers’ works – some recognisable, large scale pieces along with some smaller and rarely seen items that show off their sense of experimentation.

We invite you to come and judge for yourself at Standen and maybe your heart too will be won.
 

A distinctive Martin Brothers wally bird
A distinctive Martin Brothers wally bird

How can I get involved?

From 1 August – 13 November (weekends only in November) the exhibition will be open and offers visitors the opportunity to find out more about these remarkable craftsmen.

Endearing Freaks? The Martin Brothers Potters is at the National Trust’s Standen House and Garden, 1 August – 13 November 2016, open daily until 31 October, then weekends only in November. Usual admission to the house and gardens (adults £10.75), free for National Trust members.