LJ Harvey and his school

 

Lewis Jarvis (LJ) Harvey was the single greatest influence on visual culture in Queensland in the first half of the twentieth century, writes Glenn R Cooke, whose continued research on this important artist and teacher, and his students, is displayed in an exhibition at Griffith University Art Museum with loans from the QAGOMA Collection.

LJ Harvey (1871−1949) was a distinguished modeller, woodcarver, potter and teacher active in Queensland during the first half of the twentieth century. While Harvey was a prominent figure within Queensland’s Arts and Crafts Movement, his work was nationally significant, and he inspired the largest school of art pottery in Australia. My professional and personal research into Harvey confirms his importance in Australian art history, and there is still much more to discover about his continuing influence.

LJ Harvey, late 1920s
LJ Harvey, Australia 1871-1949 / Vase: The Rock 1930 / Earthenware, modelled with figure of a mermaid beside a rock pool with octopus, starfish and crab. Brown glaze with colours / 19.5 x 22 x 17.5cm / Gift of the Reverends David and Bruce Noble in memory of their mother Elsie Harvey Noble through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2008 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Harvey trained under JA Clarke (1840−90) at the Brisbane Technical College and taught at that institution (and the subsequent Central Technical College) from 1902 until his retirement in 1937, during which time he trained generations of students. He then established his own craft school in Horsham House in Adelaide Street, where he taught until his death — dramatically enough, during a meeting of the Royal Queensland Art Society.

While Harvey considered himself a sculptor, and is appreciated locally for his woodcarving, his claim to national significance rests on the pottery course that he established at the Central Technical College, initiating the first classes in August 1916. These developed primarily as popular hobby classes in the 1920s and 1930s. Harvey supplied a series of structured exercises which, with their commonality of form, decoration and glazing, established the most distinctive school of art pottery in Australia, of which the Queensland Art Gallery has an extensive collection.1

LJ Harvey, Australia 1871-1949 / (Screen with kookaburras and landscape) 1931 / Carved Queensland beech panel with supports in silky oak / 108.5 x 42.8 x 30.5cm / Purchased 1988 with the assistance of the Reverends David and Bruce Noble / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
LJ Harvey and his school on display (featuring Screen with kookaburras and landscape) at the Queensland Art Gallery

The artistically conservative culture of Queensland, where modernist ideas were slow to penetrate, meant that Harvey developed a distinct regional style based on the use of neo-Renaissance motifs and handbuilding techniques. Harvey subsequently gave private classes, as did many of his students, and the influence of his techniques and designs are spread over more than three decades.

Harvey’s most consistent potters (some for periods of up to 25 years) were the women who came to his classes as a social outing. The catalogue to the 1983 Queensland Art Gallery exhibition ‘LJ Harvey and his School’ includes brief biographies of 48 women who were Harvey’s students, but with further research it became clear that the exhibition had only skimmed the surface. I now have a record of some 1000 people who were influenced by Harvey’s example, mostly from Brisbane, but also from regional Queensland and interstate. This documents potters where I have been able to establish a substantial profile, others known only from an exhibition record or the name they have incised on their works, plus a host of unidentified monograms or initials.

Currently on view in ‘With Heart and Hand: Art Pottery in Queensland to 1950’, Griffith University Art Museum / LJ Harvey, Australia 1871-1949 / Jackie tobacco c.1930 / Earthenware, modelled kookaburra, with detachable head, on pedestal, in the style of Martin Bros, England. Glazed naturalistic colours and integral carved wood base / 24 x 12 x 10.5cm (complete); base: 19.5 x 10 x 10.5cm; lid: 6 x 11 x 4.5cm / Gift of the Reverends David and Bruce Noble in memory of their mother Elsie Harvey Noble through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2008 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
LJ Harvey, Australia 1871-1949 / Vase: (The fox and the grapes) c.1920s / Slab built white clay body of swelling square profile, dipped brown clay and carved. Blue-green glaze / 21 x 9 x 9cm / Gift of the Reverends David and Bruce Noble 1992 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

The difficulty with attributing Harvey School works, apart from the signatures, is the consistent quality of execution and the uniformity of style — Harvey’s thorough teaching technique makes it difficult to identify individual makers. While the individual accomplishment of the pottery is considerably varied, the number of potters identified demonstrates, unequivocally, how thoroughly Harvey School ceramics permeated the social and cultural fabric of Queensland in the first part of the twentieth century.

Apart from the exhibition at Griffith University Art Museum to show the variety and quality of the Harvey School product, the accompanying publication will include essays on the inspirational figure Harvey, the character and the development of the School, an overview of china-painting and a short history of Stones Pottery. Individual potters featured include Alice and Sarah Ellen (Nell) Bott, Evelyn Buggy, Bessie Devereux, Val McMaster, Daisy Nosworthy, the decorator Martin Moroney, and the sculptor Daphne Mayo, renowned for her 1930 tympanum above Brisbane City Hall, and her 1932 Queensland Women’s War Memorial at Anzac Square.2

Although Harvey’s contribution has been largely hidden from public view in thousands of Queensland homes, he was the single greatest influence on visual culture in Queensland in the first half (and arguably the whole) of the twentieth century and a figure of national significance. This new exhibition, and accompanying publication, is a fitting tribute to Harvey’s enduring legacy.

Currently on view in ‘With Heart and Hand: Art Pottery in Queensland to 1950’, Griffith University Art Museum / Evelyn Buggy, Australia 1901-1984 / Dragon bowl 1940 / Earthenware, hand-built, flattened spherical bowl set on four scrolled feet. The rim decorated with a carved scale pattern and a modelled dragon with head overlapping the rim and extending around the body. Glazed green with the dragon in black / 21 x 28 x 25cm / Gift of Mrs S. Gould, the artist’s daughter 1985 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Estate of the artist
Currently on view in ‘With Heart and Hand: Art Pottery in Queensland to 1950’, Griffith University Art Museum / Nell Bott, Australia 1870-1943 / Vase: (art nouveau) 1924 / Earthenware, handbuilt with foliate motif applied with brown slip and blue-green glaze / 26 x 12cm (diam.) / Gift of Lorna Pirie through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 1999. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
Currently on view in ‘With Heart and Hand: Art Pottery in Queensland to 1950’, Griffith University Art Museum / Elisabeth Monz, Australia 1908-1988 / Coffee set 1929 / Earthenware, hand-built tapering cylindrical shape with applied handle and spout. Carved decoration with pink glaze splashed sepia and blue / Coffeepot: 18 x 19 x 12cm; hot water pot: 13.5 x 16 x 11cm; jug: 13.5 x 14.5 x 10cm / Gift of the artist 1985 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
Currently on view in ‘With Heart and Hand: Art Pottery in Queensland to 1950’, Griffith University Art Museum / Marjory Clark, Australia 1908-1996 / Covered jar 1929 / Earthenware, hand-built swelling white clay form with four prominent ridges terminating in points above the lip and continued on the lid. Running brown and ochre slips carved with a “crazy paving” design. Clear glaze / Base: 23 x 14 x 14cm; lid: 6 x 10.5cm; 26 x 14 x 14cm / Gift of the artist 1983 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Glenn R Cooke is former Research Curator (Queensland Heritage) at QAGOMA and the curator of ‘With Heart and Hand: Art Pottery in Queensland to 1950’, Griffith University Art Museum, 13 September to 7 November 2018.

Endnotes
1 The exhibition ‘LJ Harvey and His Times’ in 2009 showcased the donation of Harvey works by his grandsons, the Reverends David and Bruce Noble.
2 The substantial publication accompanying the exhibition will also include a memory card with biographical details of the potters and listing all known monograms and initials.

Subscribe to YouTube to watch behind-the-scenes footage / Read more ABOUT YOUR aUSTRALIAN cOLLECTION on our blog

Delve into the secrets of Olive Ashworth’s Design: Reef fantasy 1971

Feature image: Arts and Crafts Society of Queensland Exhibition, c.1933

Comments

  1. thank for interesting material on the LJH school. He commenced classes in the middle of WW1. Couuld you please give some nfo on the b/w photograph of the exhibition?many thanks

  2. Hi Ssanne, thank you for making contact, we will forward your email to the Griffith University Art Museum so they can respond to you as we were only supplied ‘Arts and Crafts Society of Queensland Exhibition, c.1933’ Regards QAGOMA

  3. Thank for such an intriguing material on the LJH school. He started classes amidst WW1. Could you please give some information on the b/w photo of the exhibition.
    Thank you so thanks.

  4. Hi, all the information we have on the photograph is ‘Visitors to the 1933 Arts and Crafts Society of Queensland exhibition inspecting ceramics, leatherwork, and other handicrafts’. Thank you for your interest

  5. Hi, all the information we have on the photograph is ‘Visitors to the 1933 Arts and Crafts Society of Queensland exhibition inspecting ceramics, leatherwork, and other handicrafts’. Thank you for your interest

Reply