Léon-Victor Solon (1872-1953), the son of famed Minton designer Louis Marc Solon, was born in Stoke-on-Trent and joined Minton’s as a designer in 1895 with the intention of revitalising the firm’s competitive edge. By 1901, Solon was in need of an assistant designer and appointed a young John W. Wadsworth (1879-1955) to the position. Together, Solon and Wadsworth collaborated on what came to be Minton’s most successful Art Nouveau range: Secessionist Ware. In producing this range, the company sought to align itself with this highly progressive European art movement. However, the stylised decoration for this range also draws much inspiration from the avant-garde Glasgow School.
Designs produced for the range were heavily characterised by a raised linear decoration using the slip-trailed technique. This method involves piping liquid clay by hand to form a raised outline using a tubular tool, which was squeezed so that the mixture flowed. The coloured lead glazes were then painted within the raised outlines, sometimes overflowing the lines and mingling with each other, before the finished piece was fired. The coloured glazes are particularly striking in their rich polychromy of bold tones, likely inspired by Solon’s personal interest in this ancient practice.
Beyond their distinctive decoration, pieces included in the range can be identified by the Minton’s factory marks specially designed by Solon and Wadsworth. One mark contains the words ‘Mintons Ltd’ in Art Nouveau lettering, in which the ‘S’ exaggeratedly sweeps back and underneath. Another more rare mark found on pieces from 1901-1903, features ‘Mintons Ltd’ framed in a square border. These earlier Secessionist pieces are likely to have been the work of Solon; designs produced after 1905 are attributed to Wadsworth, after his appointment to art director that year. Today, the designs of both men are held in high regard, and in particular, their designs for Minton Secessionist Wares for Minton’s are widely considered a significant contribution to the British Art Nouveau style between 1890 and 1914.
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