The Decorative Arts collections can be linked to local crafts people past and present.
There are major collections of furniture, ceramics, wallpapers, modern crafts, metalwork, textiles and costume.
The English furniture from c.1530 to present is particularly important. Many objects formed part of the original collections at Temple Newsam House and family or Lotherton Hall and the Gascoigne family, or are linked to these collections.The Designated collections of decorative arts comprise furniture, ceramics, metalwork, jewellery, flat textiles, wallpapers and objets d’art. Historically, they derive mainly from the collections of the Leeds City Art Galleries before their amalgamation with the City Museums in 1995, though there is an overlap in some areas with the LMG’s social history collection. The bulk of the material is historical, having been collected from the 1890’s onwards and is displayed within the context of the two country house museums, Temple Newsam House and Lotherton Hall. A second strand to the collection was developed from the late 1970’s onwards when a collection of modern British craft was acquired with the help of the Lotherton Endowment Fund. This is numerically small but of very high quality. It is mostly held at Lotherton Hall with some ceramics at the City Art Gallery.
We have amongst the finest collections of British Furniture in the country. The core of the collection dates between c.1550 to 1900. There are also a few items of modern craft furniture. Superb examples of major makers are represented in the collection, including Thomas Chippendale the elder and younger, Linnel, Marsh and Tatham, Vile and Cobb, and Gillows. Another important area of the collection is the vernacular furniture. The chairs in this area are of particular importance and include the oldest known Windsor chair, bequeathed by Roger Warner in 2008. Part of this collection includes items of servants’ and backstairs furniture.
Included within the furniture collection are important and rare items of country house lighting, comprising chandeliers and electroliers, sconces and various kinds of lamps. Again these are considered vital for the understanding of the domestic interiors and decorative arts in general but are useful objects and are in use within Temple Newsam house and Lotherton Hall.
The ceramics collection is numerically the largest within our collection comprising approx. 5000 items. The collection of English Pottery which ranges in date from 1650 to 1900 is of particular importance. It contains the largest holdings of creamwares in the country. There are also exceptionally rare and unique items of stoneware, pearlware and earthenwares.
The English porcelain collection though numerically smaller than the pottery nonetheless contains important items of early Worcester and mid 1700s Derby.
We have a small collection of continental ceramics. This is an area which has never been actively collected. Within this there are items of exceptional rarity including Delftware pottery, Vicennes and Meissen.
Oriental pottery and porcelain form a numerically large area of the collection. Of particular note is the Savery bequest of Chinese Ceramics.
Our collections of metalwork, especially silver, are remarkable. Unlike other collections which have been gathered by means of gift or bequest, the collection of silver is a comparatively small but choice assemblage of objects largely built up by curators. This means that Leeds is able to survey English silver not only in terms of style and maker but also in the way that it illustrates material culture. There are numerous outstanding pieces in the collection of international importance, notably the Raby Cistern by Philip Rollos, the Tea Equipage by Paul de Lamerie and the Kirkleatham Centrepiece by David and Anne Tanqueray.
Leeds has a small collection of English glass. It forms an important and complementary collection to our holdings of silver and ceramics. It is of particular importance to give a fuller picture of the understanding of the material culture of the domestic interior.
We are one of only three institutions that actively collect wallpapers in the country alongside the V&A and the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. Of particular note is the Roger Warner collection of wallpapers. This includes not only salvaged items from English houses but also items relating to the prominent firm of Jeffrey & Co with example of papers designed by artists and designers such as Walter Crane, and Lewis F. Day. The collection also includes an archive of the papers found at Temple Newsam and Lotherton Hall. An interesting aspect of the collection is reproductions of papers from institutions such as the Palace of Westminster.
Miscellaneous Objects d’Art
There are miscellaneous items of decorative art within the collection that have been given and bequeathed. Although these have never been the focus of active collecting, they are interesting collections in their own right. Some deserve particular mention:
The Cliffe bequest of Ivories, the Oxley gift and bequest of ivories and miscellaneous objects of vertu, the Frank Fulford collection of Oriental hardstones and etuis and the Dorothy Una Ratcliffe collection of fans and miniatures.
Archives and Works on Paper
There are important archives relating to the decorative arts within the collections. These include the archive of the Leeds furniture maker; the Hummerston Bros and the exceptionally important collection of Country House sale catalogues.
There is also a small collection of ornament prints, designs and trade cards.
Recently there has been a strong drive to collect works on paper illustrating interiors and social history leading to notable acquisitions by William Redmore Bigg and Thomas Rowlandson.
Modern and Contemporary Applied Arts
Our collection of British modern applied arts can be broadly divided into five main areas: jewellery, ceramics, metalwork, furniture and textiles. Collecting of contemporary craft began in earnest in 1968 when Lotherton Hall opened to the public. It was decided that Lotherton should be a showcase for British applied arts from the nineteenth century until the present day. Major artists are represented in all areas of the collection. The ceramics collection is particularly strong surveying major artists from the 1930s until the present day.