A survey of the development and assessment of the influence of golf as a traditional sporting theme in the pre-1930 decoration of ceramics
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This thesis investigates the history of golf ceramics from their origins in the mid-18th century until ca. 1930. During this period the game of golf experienced enormous popularity, developing into a globally successful sport. In the modern period golf has also fostered a thriving trade for the collecting of golf memorabilia, surpassing that of any other comparable sport. The thesis traces the development and spread of one form of golf collectibles – golf ceramics – and considers both the relationship of the pottery industry to the sport and the reasons behind the achievement of the genre. The modern form of golf likely began in the 13th and 14th centuries as a short game played within town walls. Under pressure from Burgh officials and Kirk ordinances, golfers eventually moved to the linksland and developed the now characteristic long game. In 18th- century Britain, elite golf clubs for gentlemen and noblemen sprang from existing sporting societies such as the Royal Company of Archers. The first examples of golf pottery, a series of 18th - and early 19th - century convivial and commemorative punch bowls, were commissioned as a direct result of the growing competitive and social traditions of the early golfing societies. During the prosperous Victorian era, golf experienced a period of immense growth and geographic expansion, particularly during the "boom" of 1890 to 1905. As golf spread internationally, it became a game primarily for the leisure class, inspiring holiday and resort destinations for the wealthy. Exclusive clubs grew at a rate that far surpassed the availability of public golf, thereby changing the character of the game to one predominantly practised by the rich. The game's growth inspired enterprising pottery manufacturers to produce new and imaginative golf-themed pottery lines, pre-1930. Golf's burgeoning popularity, combined with the affluence of its practitioners, created the ideal consumer audience for decorative and non-utilitarian wares. Between 1895 and 1930, eighty-five or more manufacturers were actively developing golf wares. As the pottery industry recognized the potential of the golf market, inventive new lines were developed that utilized original artwork from renowned illustrators of the era, such as Charles Dana Gibson, Howard Chandler Christy, Palmer Cox, Mabel Lucie Attwell, and Harrison Fisher. This commitment to quality golf imagery indicated that potteries placed the game in a higher institutional priority than other traditional sporting themes, such as cricket, tennis, rugby, or football. Royal Doulton, for example, generated no fewer than twenty ranges specifically for the golf market or adapted to meet the demands of its expanding following. Doulton wares featured illustrative images produced by Gibson, Charles Crombie, Henry Mayo Bateman, Will H. Bradley, and Barbara Vernon (Bailey). Doulton’s commitment to prominent illustration reflected golf’s importance to the financial good footing of the firm. The substantial catalogue of historical golfing wares produced during the period of examination experienced unparalleled success in secondary markets throughout the 20th century. Prominent institutional and individual golf collections emerged, leading to the formation of international golf collecting societies, and golf-specific museums and archives. Interest in golf collectibles advanced to the level where golf became a stand-alone auction speciality. In 2000 and 2001 alone, twenty-three major international golf sales were held. Golf pottery values escalated commensurate with the increased notoriety, availability, and competition. Certainly, no other traditional sport can claim such an extensive collection of wares, or a more enduring legacy in the worldwide ceramics and fine art pottery industry.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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