William Billingsley


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(b Derby, bapt 12 Oct 1758; d Coalport, 16 Jan 1828). English ceramic artist and porcelain manufacturer. In 1774 he was apprenticed to William Duesbury at the Derby porcelain factory, where his father, William Billingsley (d 1770), was a flower painter. He became one of their chief flower painters and some ten years later developed a new, soft, naturalistic style of painting flower petals on ceramics that came to be widely, though poorly, imitated at other English factories. His innovative technique involved painting with a heavily loaded brush, and then wiping away much of the paint with a virtually dry brush to produce more delicate colours and highlights (e.g. two-handled tray, c. 1790; Derby, Mus. & A.G.). Though particularly famous for his ‘Billingsley roses’, he also painted landscapes, buildings and other botanical subjects. In 1795 he helped John Coke (1776-1841) to set up a porcelain factory at Pinxton, Derbys. By 1799 he was working as a decorator of blanks, first in Mansfield, then moving in 1802 to Brampton-in-Torksey, Lincs, and in 1808 to Worcester. In 1813 he and his son-in-law, Samuel Walker (fl 1813-35), established a porcelain factory at Nantgarw, near Cardiff. Production difficulties caused financial problems and in 1814 they joined L. W. Dillwyn (1778-1855) at his larger and better equipped factory in Swansea. In 1817 they returned to Nantgarw where they succeeded in producing a popular soft-paste porcelain ware with deep green, turquoise and claret grounds and lavishly decorated with highly burnished gilding. Production continued until 1819 when the moulds were bought by the Coalport Porcelain Factory, with which Billingsley remained associated until his death.

From The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Decorative Arts, Furniture, and Industrial Design.

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