Motivations and patterns of collecting: George Salting, William G. Gulland and William Lever as collectors of Chinese porcelain

Knittler, Konstanze Amelie (2011) Motivations and patterns of collecting: George Salting, William G. Gulland and William Lever as collectors of Chinese porcelain. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information:


The collecting of Chinese ceramics had become an increasingly popular activity in late 19th-century Britain. Whereas the 18th century was characterised by an interest in porcelain for the purpose of interior design, the political developments between China and Britain enabled a new approach to Chinese cultural identity; different Chinese material became available in the wake of the Second Opium War (1856-1860) and the subsequent sacking of the Imperial Summer Palace of Yuanmingyuan, and this material entered Britain for the first time. Due to the opening of China to foreign merchants, Britons now could move freely in the country and gain access to ‘luxury goods’ such as porcelain. As a result, a different taste for Chinese porcelain emerged and developed, which would reflect on the collecting scene in Britain.

This thesis examines the motivations and collecting patterns of three British collectors (George Salting, William G. Gulland and William Lever) in the context of late 19th- and early 20th-century Chinese porcelain collecting. All three men built significant collections in the given period, which entered national institutions by gift and/or bequest, as well as a purpose built gallery in one case. Nonetheless the collectors’ achievements in the field of Chinese ceramics have not been analysed extensively and therefore the present thesis aims at complementing the existing research.

The study makes predominant use of primary unpublished material on the three collections, which enables conclusions to be drawn on the incentive and approach of these collectors in accumulating Chinese artefacts during this period. In consideration of those findings, it will be argued whether their collecting encouraged an underlying common motif and how their tastes matched the general concept of collecting porcelain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The first chapter provides an introduction to the subject, and will be followed by a historical abstract of 19th-century collecting in Britain and a review of the published literature in the second chapter. The third chapter examines the collecting activity of the oldest collector, George Salting, by analysis of his purchase activity and the bequest of his Chinese porcelain collection to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The fourth chapter considers the collecting of William G. Gulland, whose first-hand experience of East Asia prompted him to collect and publish books on Chinese porcelain. The fifth chapter will look into the collecting principles of William Lever, whose Chinese collection stands in contrast to his overall British taste. The conclusion in the sixth chapter will summarise the major points of the preceding chapters and it will put the achievements of the three collectors into perspective with the general idea of collecting Chinese porcelain in Britain in the period under discussion.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired
Keywords: collecting, collecting patterns, chinese ceramics, chinese porcelain, taste
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CT Biography
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: Pearce, Prof. Nick
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Ms. Konstanze Amelie Knittler
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2811
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2011
Last Modified: 03 May 2024 15:09
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.2811

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