|*Monumental urn, cover and stand (gauge the size from the glimpse of an urn on a plinth, right|
Charles Ferdinand Hürten (1821/1822-1901) was a German artist who had been trained at Cologne and then later moved to Paris. He was noted for his superb fruit, flower and foliage painting and in about 1858** he was persuaded to come to work at the Spode factory which was then owned by W. T. Copeland. The images here feature flowers rather than fruit.
|Round, convex plaque, study of roses|
|Vase exhibited at the International Exhibition, London 1862|
|Vase exhibited at the International Exhibition, London (detail)|
He was also allowed to sign his work which was in great demand. Hürten was paid an annual salary. Often the artists were paid for each piece they painted known as 'piece work'. Interestingly he reported directly to a member of the Copeland family (see below), owners of the company, rather than a manager. Such was the demand for his wares that other artists were taught to paint in his style. A vase in the Spode museum collection was for many years attributed to him but then a volunteer pointed out that it was signed by F. W. Adams!
|Vase, details of flowers, painted by Adams in the style of Hürten|
On 5th June 1860 an agreement was drawn up between
'...Mr. William Taylor Copeland Manufacturer of China, Earthenware etc at Stoke upon Trent... represented by his son Mr. Alfred Copeland... and Mr. Charles Ferdinand Hürten, painter on china, in Paris... Article 1. Mr Hürten engages himself to start within thirty days to Stoke upon Trent to place himself at the order of Mr. Copeland as painter of fruits and flowers, to work in the manufactory of china under the superintendence of Mr. Copeland or his representative during all the days of work and at the hours used at the manufactory... from 8½ in the morning [8.30am] up to 6 o'clock at night with one hour's liberty during the daytime for the dinner as is the custom of the place... Art. 3. this engagement is to last for the period of five years... Art. 4. ... 1st: payment of £21... as indemnity for Mr. Hürten, himself, his family journey and moving expenses and payment of the same agreement again for his return after the expiration of the said five years... 2nd: Annual payment of £320... for wages payable per month every last day of the month...'
Copies of this agreement were in English and in French and witnessed by Alfred Copeland and Thomas Battam (Art Director); also by Victor Taglier for Hürten.
A similar agreement was drawn up in 1870 so Hürten obviously felt happy enough to remain in post after his initial five years. His salary increased to £350 per annum and the offer of payment of £21 remained if he chose to return to Paris. This time it was witnessed by Edward Capper Copeland and Will Lambert.
|Pair of huge 'Forty Thieves' Jars|
|'Forty Thieves' Jar - detail of superb painting|
|'Forty Thieves' Jar - detail of signature, lower right of lilies|
In 1864 one of the partners in the firm, Alfred Copeland, writes to Hürten from London: 'My Dear Mr. Hürten, Accept my best and heartiest thanks for your most splendid gift. It is the most beautiful specimen of the kind I think I ever saw and I assure you my wife and I shall greatly treasure it for the kind donor's sake. I never regret the day you and I became acquainted, and I trust you may still remain in Staffordshire with us for many years. I thank you again for the beautiful and delicate Déjeuner set you have given me...'
Writing again a year later in 1865 Alfred Copeland is excited by a vase arriving in London from Stoke: '...I cannot allow this week to close, without my acknowledging that the large Vase that has recently arrived from Stoke is truly magnificent, and we all, my father, Mr. Battam and myself are delighted with the result of your labours. I consider it the finest of your production and it does you infinite credit. You have grouped your flowers in beautiful variety and kept the colouring perfectly truthful and in good taste. The tone and feeling throughout is retained in every particular. I am pleased to say many good judges are surprised at this work and I am proud of it. I trust you are well and attempting to surpass... what you have already executed...'
Copies of letters from 1868-1871 from Hürten to members of his family in Germany are also in the Spode archive papers originally in German and translated into English. They are mainly about money, family illnesses and criticisms of lack of letters in return - just like any family! Hürten's daughter Emma married Lucien Besche another important Copeland artist. He painted a plaque of Hürten, dated January 1st 1878.
|Hürten by Lucien Besche|
The Spode museum holds many items painted by Hürten .Whilst working as curator at the museum I received enquiries about various items painted by Hürten - all are, without exception, superbly painted pieces. The only piece I ever saw which was poorly executed is in the Spode museum collection and was not of flowers but of a cat. Very few items are actually recorded in the archive as they were often specially commissioned, unlikely to be repeated, with no need for them to be entered in the pattern books. Order books and invoice records do not survive. Occasionally oil paintings by Hürten, unconnected with the firm, turn up. Just before I left the museum I came across a thin volume which contained records of the stock of the Spode Showroom. Inside I found details of pieces on display by 'Mr. Hürten in the glass case and on the table'. This type of record is rare in the Spode archive. What a prolific man Hürten was - proved by the long lists of pieces in this book and, rarer still, these entries were annotated with the firing dates for many of the items.
Hürten's work was signed C. F. Hürten, CFH or C.F.H. and the company exhibited wonderful examples of it at various International Exhibitions including the Paris Exhibition in 1889 when he was in his 70th year. It is worth noting it is unusual to find his work unsigned - although often people try to attribute unsigned pieces to his hand.
|Dessert plate, Madrid shape fully pierced, CFH monogram below pink roses|
He worked for Spode until the 1890s. Family sources have suggested the mid-1880s but I found sketches in an Original Sketch Book (collection no SMT 2000.287) which are dated 1887 as well as pieces he painted which are date marked 1892 such as a plaque featuring Marshal Neil roses.
|Plaque, Marshal Neil roses (detail) 1892|
One of the finest examples of Hürten's work is a dessert and tea service commissioned by the Prince of Wales on the occasion of his marriage to Princess Alexandra in 1863. The 196 piece service took about three years to complete. Hürten painted the orange blossom, fruit and flowers in the panels on the dessert plates with a linked AEW monogram in centre.
|Dessert plate, Festoon Embossed shape, from service for Prince of Wales & Princess Alexandra 1863|
|Coffee saucer, from service for Prince of Wales & Princess Alexandra 1863|
|Round plaque painted with poppies|
|Vase, 18" high painted with roses|
|Slab painted with roses (detail) with full signature|
|Signature, commemorative book 1895|
|Tray painted with dandelions and grasses c1865|
*All painted by Hürten unless otherwise stated
**As mentioned in 'Spode & His Successors' by Hayden. I found that the earliest written record in the Spode archive papers suggests 1860.