• Since Josiah I’s earliest fascination with nature, the natural world has proved to be a source of constant inspiration for the craftspeople and designers of Josiah Wedgwood & Sons.

Wedgwood and Nature

  • by the Wedgwood Museum team

Animal sculpture - Tiger with Buck by Skeaping

Theme

This model of a tiger and buck perfectly evokes the art deco era. The figurines John Skeaping produced for Wedgwood were executed in a minimalist but nonetheless commanding style, and were very much contemporary with the flavour of the 1920s.

John Rattenbury Skeaping was born in Essex in 1901 and studied at Blackheath School of Art.  Eventually he became a scholar at the Royal Academy School and in 1924 he won the Prix de Rome.  During his three years in Rome he married the sculptress Barbara Hepworth.

On his return to England in 1926 he was introduced to Frank Wedgwood, the Wedgwood’s then managing director, and after visiting the Etruria factory Skeaping was commissioned to model a series of animal studies for which he was paid £100. 

The series consisted of fourteen figures - ten of which eventually went into production at the end of 1927.  These figurines included Tiger and Buck, Fallow Deer, Polar Bear, Monkeys and both standing and a seated Duiker - a type of deer. A Buffalo figure also produced within the series was based on an east African buffalo calf that had been born at London Zoo in 1927. A 1930s Wedgwood’s advertising brochure described how – ‘The excellence of these animal figures proves how amply Mr. Skeaping’s studies of animal life have been repaid.’

The animal figures were produced in black basalt and also in earthenware bodies applied with a variety of matt and coloured glazes including the matt-white Moonstone and a matt straw.  In 1987 six of the subjects were re-issued in Queen’s ware - enabling a new generation to enjoy these striking sculptures.

Catalogue

Described in a Wedgwood 1930s advertising brochure as an artist who ‘…is well known for his drawings and engravings’ John Rattenbury Skeaping in 1926 modelled a series of fourteen sculptural animal figures for the factory, ten of which, including the dramatic tiger and buck, went into production at the end of 1927. The same subject was also revived in Queen’s ware in 1987.