Whether the subject is authors or interiors, royalty or rogues I’m an Anglophile. Though I have been caught glancing at some of the recent titles about French design, I still come down firmly on the side of the U.K. style.
What’s changed over the years is the era that has my attention. There was my Regency period and my Victorian era, Arts & Crafts and WWI. Oh, the Paisley shawls and barley twist gateleg tables, the Ruskin ware brooches and watercolor garden scenes that still lurk in the corners of my mid-century ranch. But finally my house and my interests are of the same period: the years just before and after WWII when Britain’s artists covered the war and then brought out their best designs for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953.
Of course, I got hooked on coronation mugs from the start. They’re ubiquitous — though not the pair that caught my eye and heart. I saw them in a shop that specialized in antique china and glassware and the price was beyond my modest salary. I spied them again a couple of years later: same shop, different location and going-out-business prices.
I pounced on the unmatched pair of oversize mugs designed “To Commemorate the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 1953, Wedgewood, Made in England,” as they note on the bottom. They’re both 4” high x 4 ¼” in diameter with motifs in pink, yellow and metallic glazes on a white ground. One was designed by Richard Guyatt, the other by Eric Ravilious.
During the Depression in the 1930s, the venerable Wedgwood and Sons decided to invest in new designs as a way to deal with the economic slowdown. The company hired Ravilious to bring a fresh look to pictorial design. He designed my Coronation mug, first issued for Edward VIII in 1936 (before he became the Duke of Windsor), altered it for George VI in 1937, and it was reproduced in 1953 for George’s daughter, Elizabeth. (By this time Ravilious himself was dead. He became an official war artist in 1940 and failed to return from an air-sea rescue mission off Iceland in 1942.)
The mugs display such a pure sense of 50s’ spark and sparkle that it was a surprise to discover they were designed in 1936. They are also so big that I use them as vases; though mostly they sit behind glass doors looking lovely.
I’m not the only one enamored of Ravilious’ mug. Artist Angie Lewin has used the mug the way I do — as a vase — in her whimsical prints. Lewin creates printed artwork in linocut, wood engraving, lithography and collage and it looks of an era with the mugs. Alas, though I have the mug, the prints featuring it are no longer available. The good news is that my $25 mug is now worth anywhere from 185 to 300 pounds sterling. You do the math.
Top photo shows Ravilious’ 1953 Coronation Mug on the left and Guyatt’s on the right. Note both have motifs on the inside of the mug as well as the outside. “Edward Bawden and His Circle” is a good place to start for images and information on these interwar artists. Middle image: 1953 Coronation Mug print by Angie Lewin. Bottom image: Another version of the 1953 Coronation Mug by Angie Lewin. Both images from Lewin's Web site.