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200 Batchelder Tiles Find a New Home

Nov 22, 2015

Batchelder-knights-tilesThe folks at Pasadena Museum of History are pretty happy, maybe even giddy and gleeful, thanks to architectural historian Robert Winter, Ph.D., who’s donated to the museum part of his personal collection and accompanying archives.

From PMH…

The donation includes over 200 Batchelder tiles made between the years 1910 and the early 1930s, including tiles in the Arts and Crafts style (from landscape reliefs to figural corbels) as well as colorfully glazed tiles of later years in the Mayan, Spanish Revival, and Art Deco styles. Additionally, there are a half a dozen objects from Batchelder’s rare later line, Kinneloa Ceramics.

“Dr. Winter’s extraordinary donation gives PMH a major Arts and Crafts collection that is particularly meaningful to the cultural history of this region,” says the Museum’s Director of Collections, Laura Verlaque. “Ernest Batchelder designed and produced these tiles first in Pasadena in 1910, and in later decades in a large factory in Los Angeles,” she explains.

 

Batchelder tile from the Dr. Robert W. Winter collection

Batchelder tile from the Dr. Robert W. Winter collection

 

Dr. Winter notes that, while these tiles were not inexpensive, they were affordable to people of more modest means, and thus “hundreds of homes in Southern California and, indeed, the rest of the United States and even Canada are endowed with beautiful Batchelder fireplaces and fountains.

Today Batchelder tiles are prized collectibles, much sought-after by tile aficionados, preservationists, and historians enamored of such exemplary works of California design, as well as by many others who simply admire their beauty.

 

Dr. Robert Winter with a Batchelder tile from his collection, now donated to Pasadena Museum of History; courtesy photo

Dr. Robert Winter with a Batchelder tile from his collection, now donated to Pasadena Museum of History; courtesy photo

 

Editor’s note: Batchelder tiles depict a wide variety of images from charging knights on horseback, castles in a bucolic countryside, finely-detailed trees and forests, and a Viking’s longboat to flowers, birds, and even dancing angels—simple and intricate designs alike, and often a group of tiles or series are used to create a whole picture. Many of the images included in this article are sourced from WellsTile.com/Batchelder in Los Angeles to illustrate this diversity. Batchelder tiles that have been donated to PMH are appropriately identified.

 

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“Batchelder: Tilemaker” – The Exhibition

The public will have the opportunity to view items from the collection during the exhibition “Batchelder: Tilemaker,” curated by Dr. Winter and on view at Pasadena Museum of History from September 21, 2016 through February 12, 2017. This will be the first local exhibit dedicated solely to the life and work of this extraordinary artist and educator.

Ernest Batchelder established his first tile factory in the backyard of his home on the banks of Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco. His handcrafted art tiles epitomized the ideals of the American Arts and Crafts movement. Dr. Robert winter lives in the Batchelder house and wrote the definitive Batchelder history, Batchelder: Tilemaker (Balcony Press, 1999).

This exhibit celebrates the donation of Dr. Winter’s personal collection of Batchelder tiles and accompanying archives to Pasadena Museum of History. It will feature tiles, as well as ceramic architectural elements and hollowware made by Batchelder, from Dr. Winter’s collection and other private lenders, interspersed with photographs and artifacts from Batchelder’s life.

For additional information about the upcoming exhibition, please visit the Museum’s website at PasadenaHistory.org or call 626.577.1660.

 

Batchelder_tile_049

Batchelder tile from the Dr. Robert W. Winter collection

 

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Batchelder-tile-two-birds

 

Ernest Allan Batchelder (1875-1957)

Ernest Allan Batchelder was born in New Hampshire in 1875. After an arts education, Batchelder became an instructor of manual arts (metalwork, pottery, tile-making) at Throop Polytechnic Institute in Pasadena, CA (now California Institute of Technology/CalTech), where he served as the director of art from 1902 to 1909.

In comments about the tilemaker, Dr. Robert Winter has noted that Batchelder wrote two books on design and illustrated them with his own drawings. He was an expert in design and probably used his ideas in the tiles he first produced starting about 1910, after obtaining a permit to build a shed and kiln behind his house. Here, he set up a shop and school, where he fired his own tiled, including some for local architects, including Charles and Henry Greene.

 

batchelder tile

 

As his business expanded, he employed other designers – usually his students – who worked under his close supervision. “As a result,” says Dr. Winter, “there is a harmony of style throughout the history of his company. All his tiles reflect Batchelder’s interest in a broad range of subjects – nature, music, architecture, and folklore.

“Batchelder tiles also have a unity of texture,” Dr. Winter continues. “Apparently he [Batchelder] hated the high glosses that many of his contemporaries used in their work. He preferred a soft finish, called engobe, which makes his products harmonize with the muted beauty of Arts and Crafts interiors. His earliest tiles, those made in the ‘teens, were in earth tones touched with traces of blue-green. In the twenties, when American taste turned to various architectural revivals, Batchelder’s palette broadened to colorful production and even Mayan imagery – but the finish remained muted, soft.”

 

Batchelder-tile-flowers

 

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Two-piece silk damask evening gown with leg-of-mutton sleeves, 1890s. Gift of Elizabeth Pedder (Courtesy of Pasadena Museum of History; Costume and Textile Collection, 95.15.20a/b). Photo by Aaron Gil, Fotonuova.com.

Two-piece silk damask evening gown with leg-of-mutton sleeves, 1890s. Gift of Elizabeth Pedder (Courtesy of Pasadena Museum of History; Costume and Textile Collection, 95.15.20a/b). Photo by Aaron Gil, Fotonuova.com.

 

Current Pasadena Museum of History exhibit: “Fabulous Fashions
Through February 14, 2016
PMH, 470 W. Walnut St., Pasadena 91103
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, noon-5 p.m.
Tickets: $7, general; $6, students and seniors
For more info, visit PasadenaHistory.org

 

Taffeta and lace cocktail gown with an illusion bodice, 1950s. Worn by Leonora Curtin Paloheimo (Courtesy of Pasadena Museum of History; FCP Collection, 2000.019.0189). Photo by Aaron Gil, Fotonuova.com.

Taffeta and lace cocktail gown with an illusion bodice, 1950s. Worn by Leonora Curtin Paloheimo (Courtesy of Pasadena Museum of History; FCP Collection, 2000.019.0189). Photo by Aaron Gil, Fotonuova.com.

 

 




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