An AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award has made collaboration possible between Northumbria University and the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead in providing the opportunity to highlight a significant narrative in craft history. Henry Rothschild, a German émigré, ran the iconic craft outlet Primavera from 1946 to 1980. During this time, he built up an internationally significant collection of ceramics, now housed at the Shipley Art Gallery, along with a personal and business archive. By bringing this inaccessible and underused material to the fore and complementing it with interviews with Rothschild’s contemporaries, connections have emerged that were previously undiscovered. This thesis demonstrated how Rothschild’s position as a retailer, exhibitor and collector marked him as a unique character within the crafts as well as demonstrated the ways in which he utilised his position as an émigré to act outside of the confines of the traditional British standpoint. The narrative of Rothschild has been interwoven into the existing literature on craft in Britain, creating a previously unheard of account of post-war craft. Although Rothschild’s role in the post-war craft world has been remarked upon in a number of texts (Cooper, 2012; Harrod, 1995; Harrod, 1999; Buckley and Hochsherf, 2012) his wide reaching impact and contribution has never been explored in detail. This thesis considered the contradictory nature of Rothschild’s multiple roles and the resulting implications: as a retailer he was motivated to choose pieces that would sell, as an exhibitor he could allow for more creativity and daring in his curatorial choices, and as private collector he enjoyed established relationships with craftspeople. The aim of this thesis was to position Rothschild as collector, exhibitor and retailer not only within the context of British craft, but also to consider how Primavera operated within what David Kynaston calls the ‘justly iconic’ time period from 1945 to 1980 (Kynsaton, 2007). Through both his retail and exhibition activity at Primavera and beyond, craft was given a platform, made accessible to the wider public and influenced taste and fashion. His background as a German Jewish émigré emerged as key to understanding how he negotiated his position within this world. The resulting thesis confirmed and elucidated the significance of Rothschild and Primavera and called for further research into those individuals who are very much of the craft world but not always as producers or educators. As demonstrated here, such examinations have the potential to offer a narrative which is both complementary and challenging to those which dominate, and thereby contribute to the discourse on the nature of narrative based research and craft history.
|Publication status||In preparation - Dec 2015|