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John Astbury

(c. 1688—1743) potter


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(b Shelton, Staffs, 1688; d Shelton, Staffs, 3 March 1743). English potter. He worked mainly in earthenware and furthered the development of white, salt-glazed wares, which replaced the earlier, drab, salt-glazed stoneware and the brittle, yellow-brown slipwares. He was interested in the nature of clays and carried out experiments with combinations of different types; he is often credited (along with Thomas Heath) with the introduction of calcined flint into the clay body to enable the production of finer, crisper work. His output included teapots and other red earthenwares—some with applied, white relief decoration—including cow creamers and a variety of animal figures. He is perhaps best known, however, for his charming figures of soldiers (e.g. Grenadier; London, BM), musicians and horsemen modelled in brown-and-white clay with transparent lead glazes. Although these figures were cheaply produced from moulds they required a great deal of hand finishing. Similar but later figures, stained with underglaze metallic oxides, are referred to as ‘Astbury Whieldon’. Astbury's rolled, pipeclay figures possess a cheerful, enthusiastic quality and he is also sometimes credited with modelling the naive and humorous ‘Pew Groups’ of seated men and women in finely detailed contemporary dress. From c. 1735 he is also reputed to have made figure jugs, precursors of the popular ‘Toby’ jugs. His work was not signed; where the name does appear it belongs to a later member of his family, after c. 1760. His name is used to classify the work of many other potters by type and of the period 1730 to 1740.

From The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Decorative Arts, Furniture, and Industrial Design.


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