28th April 2021 @ 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Moo Cow Milk Bar (entrance area), 203 Victoria Street, London SW1, circa 1954. (Photograph courtesy of the Milk Marketing Board).

This talk will be delivered online. If you would like to attend, please use the link below to book. You will be sent your login details by email. We look forward to welcoming you.

Ceramics as Show

An illustrated talk by Dr Matthew Partington

Nature in Art has a fascinating collection of ceramic items, including tiles, many of which would have adorned not just private homes, but public and commercial buildings too. During the lockdowns of the past year none of us have managed to frequent our regular haunts as we once did, including our favourite eateries and coffee shops. So instead, this evening we are venturing out to the coffee bars of the 1950s to explore the ceramics which were made for them by a small group of potters – primarily Margret Hine, William Newland and Nicholas Vergette.

Matthew, a V&A Visiting Fellow and Associate Department Head and Programme Leader at the University of the West of England, has brought together photographic, documentary and oral history evidence to paint a picture of a group of artists working for clients who wanted work which would make their coffee bar stand out from the 500 or so which had sprung up in London during the mid 1950s. Whilst little if any of these ceramics survive today, it is clear that, unfettered from the restraint so beloved of the Leach school, these artists were free to use colour, size and exotic themes to realise their client’s desire for their bar to ‘stand out’.

From the early commissions for wheel-thrown cow heads and tile panels for the Moo Cow Milk Bar in Victoria Street to a whole series of bars with French, Mexican and American themes through to their work in the 1960s on Indian restaurants, the work of these artists represent a fascinating example of site specific ceramics. They were ceramics conceived for particular spaces to amuse and engage the public.


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