Robert Wallace Martin Plaque
A rare terra-cotta plaque by Robert Wallace Martin (1843-1923), titled A Girl at a Spring, depicting a maiden in a rocky landscape, classically dressed and with a ewer, possibly representing Hebe, the plaque incised “R.W. MARTIN. 1868. Sc.” and impressed “R.W.M.”, 25.75 ins. high, 12.75 ins. wide, English, 1868.
Robert Wallace Martin was a sculptor by training, having studied with the English architectural sculptor, J.B. Phillips. He also took classes at the Lambeth School of Art. In 1873 Martin founded Martinware Pottery in Fulham, soon after involving his brothers Edwin, Walter and Charles in the business. The Martin Brothers were primarily known for fantastical vessels, lidded jars, and other art pottery, mostly with bird (called “Wally Birds”) and animal themes. Their whimsical pieces were mainly done in stoneware, glazed in a muted green, gray, blue, and brown palette. These plaques, then, are not indicative of the typical Martin Brothers style, but are representative of Robert Wallace Martin’s early classical training. These plaques may also have been inspired by the works of the nearby Doulton Pottery, known for their very traditional terra-cotta products. In 1877, Martinware moved to a new manufactory on Havelock Road in the Southall section of London. An engraving of R.W. Martin’s A Girl at a Spring was published in The Art Journal (London) in 1875. In 1879, the same journal proclaimed that an enormous debt was owed to R.W. Martin, as both an artist and businessman. The publication praised Martin for being an artist, but also for being “that which we seldom meet in England...he is also the workman, the manufacturer, and the merchant”. The Martin Brothers firm was active until 1915. .
Literature: Malcolm Haslam, The Martin Brothers, Potters, London, Richard Dennis, 1978, p. 22, for illustrations and discussions of this early model.