Kate (or Katie) Harris, is broadly considered one of the most important designers for the London-based firm, William Hutton & Sons. From 1899 to around 1905, she produced exquisite designs for artistic silver. Often featured in The Studio magazine, her work received much critical acclaim and is still admired by many collectors today.
An advocate of organic forms, executed with the finest material, sinuous botanical motifs dominate her work, serving both a decorative and structural purpose for the piece itself. Perhaps Harris’ best-known designs however, are those featuring a classically stylised figural form, typically austere in feeling and with fewer erotic overtones than Continental Art Nouveau counterparts. The skilled craftsmanship to bring these designs to life showcase the elegance and simple beauty that is so synonymous with Harris’ work.
Included in this sale are a number of pieces by Harris at the peak of her career. One such example is an inkstand which she was commissioned to design in 1902, and adopted as one of the prizes issued by the Art Union of London. The Union’s annual report of that year indicates eighteen examples of the inkstand were allocated as prizes. The report also wrote of her design, ‘The charming and original inkstand, designed for the Society by Miss Katie J Harris will be especially noticed…Miss Harris’ future career will be watched with interest’.
The period between 1880 and 1914 offered fresh opportunities to women artists in training and employment, and there was a growing number of women artist-designers names published in popular art magazines at the time. However, despite her name being a major contributor to the commercial Arts and Crafts style, little is known about the life and career of Katie Harris. While Harris may have been one of Hutton & Sons brightest talents, it was commercial standard practice for designs to be attributed to the firm itself, and not the individual designer. As a consequence, even successful artists would remain largely anonymous and it became challenging, particularly for women, to forge a prosperous artistic career. Though her biography remains vague, her accomplishments in silverware design are recognised and reflected in the high prices her work commands in the art market today.
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