Architectural Historian Robert Winter, Ph.D. Donates Personal Collection of Batchelder Tiles to Pasadena Museum of History

Items From Collection To Be On Public Display in Fall 2016 Exhibition

Published : Wednesday, November 11, 2015 | 1:12 PM

Robert W. Winter in his home, 2014. Photograph by Marlyn Woo/Joanne Wilborn. Courtesy of the Pasadena Museum of History.

Pasadena Museum of History is pleased to announce the recent gift by architectural historian, Robert Winter, Ph.D., of his personal collection of Batchelder tiles and accompanying archives.

The donation includes over 200 Batchelder tiles made between the years 1910 and the early 1930s, including tiles in the Arts and Crafts style (from landscape reliefs to figural corbels) as well as colorfully glazed tiles of later years in the Mayan, Spanish Revival, and Art Deco styles. Additionally, there are half a dozen objects from Batchelder’s rare later line, Kinneloa Ceramics.

“Dr. Winter’s extraordinary donation gives PMH a major Arts and Crafts collection that is particularly meaningful to the cultural history of this region,” says the Museum’s Director of Collections, Laura Verlaque. “Ernest Batchelder designed and produced these tiles first in Pasadena in 1910, and in later decades in a large factory in Los Angeles.”

Dr. Winter noted that, while these tiles were not inexpensive, they were affordable to people of more modest means, and thus “hundreds of homes in Southern California and, indeed, the rest of the United States and even Canada are endowed with beautiful Batchelder fireplaces and fountains.”

Today Batchelder tiles are prized collectibles, much sought-after by tile aficionados, preservationists, and historians enamored of such exemplary works of California design, as well as by many others who simply admire their beauty.

Batchelder: Tilemaker – The Exhibition

The public will have the opportunity to view items from the tile collection during the exhibition Batchelder: Tilemaker, which will be on view at Pasadena Museum of History from September 21, 2016 through February 12, 2017. This will be the first local exhibit dedicated solely to the life and work of this extraordinary artist and educator. Ernest Batchelder established his first tile factory in the backyard of his home on the banks of Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco. His hand-crafted art tiles epitomized the ideals of the American Arts and Crafts movement. Exhibit curator, Dr. Robert Winter, lives in the Batchelder house and wrote the definitive Batchelder history, Batchelder: Tilemaker (Balcony Press, 1999).

This exhibit will celebrate the donation of Dr. Robert Winter’s personal collection of Batchelder tiles and accompanying archives to the Pasadena Museum of History. The exhibit will feature tiles, as well as ceramic architectural elements and hollowware made by Batchelder, from Dr. Winter’s collection and other private lenders, interspersed with photographs and artifacts from Batchelder’s life.

Ernest Allan Batchelder (1875-1957)

Ernest Allan Batchelder was born in New Hampshire in 1875. After an arts education, Batchelder became an instructor of manual arts (metalwork, pottery, tile-making) at Throop Polytechnic Institute in Pasadena (now CalTech), where he served as the director of art from 1902 to 1909.

In comments about the tilemaker, Dr. Winter has noted that Batchelder wrote two books on design and illustrated them with his own drawings. He was an expert in design and probably used his ideas in the tiles he first produced starting about 1910, after obtaining a permit to build a shed and kiln behind his house. Here, he set up a shop and school, where he fired his own tiles, including some for local architects, including Charles and Henry Greene.

As his business expanded he employed other designers, usually his students who worked under his close supervision. “As a result,” says Dr. Winter, “there is a harmony of style throughout the history of his company. All his tiles reflect Batchelder’s interest in a broad range of subjects – nature, music, architecture, and folklore.

“Batchelder tiles also have a unity of texture. Apparently he hated the high glosses that many of his contemporaries used in their work. He preferred a soft finish (called engobe), which makes his products harmonize with the muted beauty of Arts and Crafts interiors. His earliest tiles – those made in the ‘teens – are in earth tones touched with traces of blue-green. In the twenties, when American taste turned to various architectural revivals, Batchelder’s palette broadened to colorful production and even Mayan imagery – but the finish remained muted, soft.”

For additional information, please visit www.pasadenahistory.org or contact Jeannette Bovard at Pasadena Museum of History (pasadenahistory@sbcglobal.net).

 

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