27 September 2013

Spode and Cecil Beaton

The other day the wonderful Your Paintings tweeted a link to a portrait of Cecil Beaton. I immediately remembered that there is an unexpected Spode connection with him.

In 1970 the Spode company produced a plate designed by Cecil Beaton. It is thought that the plate was probably a special commission. The order was placed with Spode in Stoke in the UK through its American agents Spode Inc. in New Jersey. There is a record of the design as pattern number W148 in the Spode pattern books in the Spode archive. This records the design but gives no further information. It may be that a Peace organisation commissioned it.


The beautiful design of grasses, butterflies and caterpillars was produced on Spode's Fine Stone body. For more information go to my S page on my Spode ABC and then scroll down to Stone China.

The backstamp of the plate is very detailed, as can be seen in the image, and I suppose is really part of the design not simply an ordinary mark. It reads: A Spode Annual first year of the issue, designed by Cecil Beaton on Lowestoft and dedicated to the cause of peace 1970.

Lowestoft is the name of the shape of the ware. The plate is decorated in brown using slide-off lithography which is known as 'water slide' at Spode.

Although the details suggest this was first of a series no further issues were made. This is a charming design but it seems it was unsuccessful commercially.

Knighted in 1972, Beaton is best known for his famous photographic portraits of British royalty and for his pictures of international stars. In addition to photography, he worked as an author/illustrator of books and as a set designer for theatrical productions, operas and ballets. He also served as a costume designer and production designer on prestigious films.

Of course a bit of searching will find plenty on the web about Beaton. This is a good article from the V & A - click here. A dramatic photograph of his during World War II can be found on Wiki commons - click here.