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Cabinet and Ornamental Wares: Painted Porcelain of the 19th and 20th Centuries

WINNIPEG.- The Winnipeg Art Gallery presents today Cabinet and Ornamental Wares: Painted Porcelain of the 19th and 20th Centuries, on view through April 12, 2009. The use of the ceramic body as a canvas for exquisite painting became a vital part of the porcelain trade in the 19th and 20th centuries. Landscapes, figural and animal studies, fruit and botanical still lives were popular subjects. Books of prints would be made available by porcelain manufactories for clients to peruse and select views to embellish their ordered wares. These prints were from diverse sources such as Harrington's Engravings of the Lakes; Picturesque Views of the Principal Seats of the Nobility and Gentry in England and Wales; Curtis's Botanical Magazine; the two volume Collection of Prints from Pictures painted for the purpose of illustrating the dramatic works of Shakespeare by the artists of Great Britain, or W. B. Daniel's Rural Sports.

Services could be decorated with complementary scenes, for example, a different vista or bird on each vessel. Richly decorated plates, lavishly enameled and gilded, were made for fine display in cabinets or for placement on ornate table settings, to be later replaced by less luxurious dinner or dessert plates. Also popular were garniture sets of symmetrically arranged vases for impressive display on mantels. These wares functioned sheerly to be marveled at and admired.

British, porcelain manufactories were in steep competition with each other to employ the best known and recognized porcelain painters, decorators, and gilders. The names of these artists, recorded directly on the works, now became part of an object's cache. No longer did these workers remain largely anonymous—instead, they became major factors in their production's appeal. Drawing upon the WAG's fine collection of English porcelain and supplementing it with work drawn from local collections, this exhibition will explore the various manufactories producing painted porcelain and the fine decorators responsible for these beautiful wares.

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