Elkington & Co. and the art of electro-metallurgy, circa 1840-1900

Grant, Alistair (2015) Elkington & Co. and the art of electro-metallurgy, circa 1840-1900. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This is the first major art historical study of Elkington & Co., the British art-metalwork
company that from c.1840 invented and patented methods of electro-depositing gold and
silver, which they developed artistically and commercially into the modern industrial art of
electro-metallurgy. It analyses how Elkington’s syntheses of science and art into industrial
manufacturing processes revolutionized the design and production, replication and
reproduction of precious metalwork, metal sculpture, and ornamental art-metalwork, and
why the art of electro-metallurgy, the world’s first electrical art, exemplifies the social, and
cultural change of the mid-Victorian era.
This PhD thesis studies Elkington’s technical development from c.1840-1900,
analyzing how they developed new methods of gilding and plating, and important
collateral technologies. It identifies key people in the company, and analyses the
chronology of scientific discoveries that shaped the industrial processes and artistic
practices at their manufactories in Birmingham. It then analyses the development of the
company’s creative strategy, and identifies key people whose artistic contributions
collectively shaped the evolution of the art of electro-metallurgy. It provides the first
study of Elkington as non-precious metals manufacturers, identifying and analyzing the
key artworks that they produced in copper and copper alloys as ‘bronzists,’ and examines
how Elkington applied the art of electro-metallurgy to the manufacture of monumental
statues. By critically analyzing key sculptures it demonstrates how Elkington became the
preeminent British bronze foundry of the mid-Victorian era.
It concludes with a study of Elkington & Co.’s oeuvre from 1851-1878, and
analyzes how their art of electro-metallurgy was influenced by the technical and stylistic
eclecticism of l’orfèvrerie française of the French 2nd Empire. It describes how, from 1853-
1899, Elkington employed three Frenchmen as their chief artists: Pierre-Emile Jeannest,
Auguste Willms, and Léonard Morel-Ladeuil, who further elevated the company’s artistic
reputation. It concludes with a detailed analysis of Elkington’s masterpiece, The Milton
Shield (1867) and analyses how its publication as electrotype reproductions in America
exemplified the art of electro-metallurgy.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > Art History
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NK Decorative arts > NK3600 Other arts and art industries > NK6400 Metalwork
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2015 10:15
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2019 09:27
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/54159

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