Portraiture and detailed work

Portraiture was Hackwood’s forte, though a letter dated September 1774 gives little initial indication of this. Wedgwood wrote to Bentley,

“I must send you a few of the new model’d figures as they are, for Hackwood, if he is capable of giving character to their faces, & improving the draperies, wch. I have some doubt of, though I am perswaded he would mend them considerably, he has not time for it at present.”

In the same letter, Wedgwood was more complimentary about Hackwood’s three-dimensional modelling:

“The Busts will employ him for a year or two before our collection is tolerably complete, & I am much set upon having it so, being fully perswaded they will be a capital article with us, & Hackwood finishes them admirably – They are infinitely superior to the Plaister ones we take them from, as you will see more fully when you come to Etruria. I hope in time to send you a collection of the finest Heads in this World.”

“Plaister ones” is a reference to the fact that Wedgwood, in common with other ceramic manufacturers, purchased plaster models from firms such as Hoskins and Grant or from John Flaxman Senior in London. Such models were then enhanced and re-modeled to the degree of perfection that we have come to expe

ct from the eighteenth-century busts and statuary groups which have survived to the present day. The overall opinion expressed in the letter is that “. . . Hackwood is of the greatest value & consequence in finishing fine small work, & of this kind we have and shall have enough to employ him constantly . . . .”

The need for a modeler’s talent in the finishing of fine small works is detailed in a letter written by Wedgwood in January 1775 in which he bemoaned to Bentley that

“We have not sent you any of the new small bassrelief figures modeled in London because we cannot get them repai’d. – We want half a doz more Hackwoods for these small things.”

It would seem from these early references that the majority of the work assigned to Hackwood at that time was as a repairer rather than asan innovator. “Repairing” here means the task of creating a finished article out of its component molded parts, not the repair of something that was broken. However, by 1776 the Wedgwood letters begin to tell another story.