Dear Helaine and Joe:
I purchased this small plate (85/8 inches in diameter) for a very small sum of money many years ago from an antiques store. It has the marks of both the Haviland and Pickard companies on the back. It’s in good condition with only a few scratches along the gold edge. I am hoping you can help me determine the artist who painted it and its potential value.
Thank you in advance,
L. A. R.
Dear L. A. R.:
If a piece is not signed by the artist, then all a collector can do is make an attribution based on content and decoration style.
Interestingly, we have found a twin to the plate in today’s question that sold at auction in 2011 at a prestigious American auction house for what we consider to be a decent amount of money in the post-2008 market. That plate was not signed by the artist either, which means we must speculate — something we do not like to do.
Wilder A. Pickard was born in 1857 on a farm near Sun Prairie, Wis. His family was prosperous during the Civil War period but fell on hard times and lost everything during the Panic of 1873. Pickard eventually ended up in Chicago doing various jobs. One day he was walking through the Marshall Fields department store and saw a piece by Pauline Pottery of Edgerton, Wis.
Pauline Pottery primarily made utilitarian wares such as battery cups, but they also did some hand-decorated wares, and W. A. Pickard became their Midwest sales manager. Pickard was successful at this and it has been speculated that Pickard’s orders amounted to about one third of Pauline’s output. Due to various reasons, Pauline Pottery began to fail, but Pickard realized he had a customer base interested in hand-painted ceramics.
Pickard China was incorporated in Edgerton in 1893. The company bought “blanks” (undecorated china) from various European sources and decorated them in the company’s studios using artists, many of whom had studied at the Chicago Art Institute. The pattern seen on the Picard plate in today’s question appears to be unnamed, but it could be a variant of the company’s Twin Poppy design.
As for who the artist might have been, one name jumps to the forefront of our thinking and that is John Loh. L. A. R. might examine her piece very carefully because the “Loh” signature can hide in plain sight. Loh started working at Pickard in 1898 and continued off and on through about 1912.
He was called “Poppy John” because he was so adept at painting the flower. This is a lovely Art Nouveau-inspired design that was masterfully painted, but values for Pickard pieces have declined in recent years. We believe the plate should be valued for insurance purposes in the $150 to $200 range.