New Title | ‘Japanned Papier Mâché and Tinware c.1740-1940’

Posted in books by Editor on May 2, 2012

From the Antique Collector’ Club:

Yvonne Jones, Japanned Papier Mâché and Tinware c.1740-1940 (Woodbridge: Antique Collectors’ Club, 2012), 336 pages, ISBN: 9781851496860, £45.

As one of the few decorative arts about which little has been written, japanning is today fraught with misunderstandings. And yet, in its heyday, the japanning industry attracted important commissions from prestigious designers such as Robert Adam, and orders from fashionable society across Europe and beyond.

This book is a long overdue history of the industry which centred on three towns in the English midlands: Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Bilston. It is as much about the workers, their skills, and the factories and workshops in which they laboured, as it is about the goods they made. It tells of matters of taste and criticism, and of how an industry which continued to rely so heavily upon hand labour in the machine age reached its natural end in the 1880s with a few factories lingering into the late 1930s. Richly illustrated, it includes photographs of mostly marked, or well-documented, examples of japanned tin and papier mâché against which readers may compare – and perhaps identify – unmarked specimens.

Japanned Papier Mâché and Tinware draws predominantly upon contemporary sources: printed, manuscript and typescript documents, and, for the period leading up to the closure of the last factories in the 1930s, the author was able to draw on verbal accounts of eyewitnesses. With a chapter on japanners in London, other European centres, and in the United States, together with a directory of japan artists and decorators, this closely researched and comprehensive book is the reference work for collectors, dealers and enthusiasts alike.

From Imitation to Innovation; Enter the Dragon!; The Lion of the District; Japanning & Decorating; Not a Bed of Roses!; Clever Accidents?; Decline of the Midlands Japanning Industry; The Birmingham Japanners; The Wolverhampton Japanners; The Bilston Japanners; Japanners in London and Oxford; Products; Other Western Japanning Centres; Appendices.

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With a degree in Fine Art, Yvonne Jones taught art in schools and colleges before joining Wolverhampton Art Galleries and Museums in 1971, serving first as Keeper of Applied Art, and then as Head of Arts & Museums. Researching, documenting and extending the town’s collection of japanned papier mâché and tinware, she became aware of the breadth and importance of this field in the decorative arts. She left her post in 1994 to concentrate on a programme of original research, and is now an international authority on the subject and continues to lecture widely in both Britain and the United States.

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