Height: 18.500 cm
Width: 23.300 cm
Room 47: Europe 1800-1900
Electroplate teapot, designed by Christopher Dresser and made by James Dixon and Sons
Designed AD 1878/9; made in Sheffield, England, AD 1879-85
Christopher Dresser (1834-1904) was the most brilliant and prolific industrial designer of his age. He worked in many different fields of the applied arts, including carpets, furnishing textiles and wallpapers, as well as ceramics, glass, furniture and metalwork, collaborating with manufacturers throughout the country. Unlike his contemporary William Morris (1834-96), who rejected industry, Dresser sought to take advantage of the opportunity it offered to make good design available at a cheaper price. In the case of this teapot, this explains his choice of electroplated nickel silver instead of solid silver.
Dresser was well-versed in the history of design, as well as being a talented botanist, and he drew upon both these sources in his work. He was so fascinated by Japanese decorative arts that he went on a special visit to Japan in 1877. This teapot was designed shortly after his return. Its plain geometric form and bar-shaped ebonized wood handle clearly reflects the impact of his visit. Another source of inspiration was Chinese eighteenth-century metal and ceramic teapots, some of which were remarkably similar in shape. The plainness of the teapot and the absence of surface decoration give it a strikingly modern appearance. But the method of manufacture, using sheet metal foldered and soldered, proved too costly, and it was never put into production. This example may be a unique prototype.
J. Rudoe, Decorative arts 1850-1950: a c, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)