Robert Wallace Martin Bas-relief
A rare terra-cotta plaque by Robert Wallace Martin (1843-1923) depicting a male shepherd in a rocky landscape and playing a pipe, the plaque incised “R Wallace Martin 1871-2 Sc B4 3, and impressed “R.W.M.”, English, 1871-2. 26.25 ins. high, 13 ins. wide.
Robert Wallace Martin was a sculptor by training, having studied with the English architectural sculptor, J.B. Phillips. He also took classes at the Lambeth School of Art. In 1873 Martin founded Martinware Pottery in Fulham, soon after involving his brothers Edwin, Walter and Charles in the business. The Martin Brothers were primarily known for fantastical vessels, lidded jars, and other art pottery, mostly with bird (called “Wally Birds”) and animal themes. Their whimsical pieces were mainly done in stoneware, glazed in a muted green, gray, blue, and brown palette. This plaque, then, is not indicative of the typical Martin Brothers style, but is representative of Robert Wallace Martin’s early classical training. This plaque may also have been inspired by the works of the nearby Doulton Pottery, known for their very traditional terra-cotta products. In 1877, Martinware moved to a new manufactory on Havelock Road in the Southall section of London. In 1879, The Art Journal (London) proclaimed that an enormous debt was owed to R.W. Martin, as both an artist and businessman. The publication praised Martin for being an artist, but also for being “that which we seldom meet in England...he is also the workman, the manufacturer, and the merchant”. The Martin Brothers firm was active until 1915.
Literature: Malcolm Haslam, The Martin Brothers, Potters, London, Richard Dennis, 1978, p. 22, for illustrations and discussions of this early model.