In his important book The English Regional Chair, Bill Cotton heads his chapter on West Midlands Chairs (which includes an account of the Clissett family) with a photograph of a painting (see page 286). This painting, by the Worcestershire artist Edward Thompson Davis, shows the interior of a West Midlands cottage, and is dated around 1880 (the date is incorrect as Davis died in 1867, and was active as a painter from about 1854).
Bill draws attention to the ladderback chair that the woman is seated on (I’ve shown only a small portion of the painting here) as being in the West Midlands tradition. He doesn’t mention the chair to the left which is rather different, but can still be linked to the West Midlands, albeit to a slightly different thread in the tradition.
This chair is a half-arm ladderback in many respects to the chair illustrated in The English Regional Chair as WM14. These half-arm chairs crop up from time to time in various configurations, and were clearly part of the West Midlands oeuvre. The one shown in the painting has five slats to the back, curved back legs, widely spaced stretchers, no obvious finial, and a rather bulbous arm support. Like the other chair in the painting, it appears to have a rush seat.
The artist, Edward Thompson Davis, is of real interest because he is known for painting local life in Worcestershire, and his work seems to include many interiors. In addition to the one shown here (entitled “For what we are about to receive”), I’ve located another four showing West Midlands style chairs. These are all of the straight-backed variety, very similar to the ladderback in the centre of the image above. None of them show a chair of the half-arm variety (nor, for that matter, a spindleback of the type made by Clissett). A couple of these painting are shown below, one with a four-rung example, and the other with a five-rung.
I’m drawing attention to this for two reasons. Firstly, that there’s a little more in these paintings than was drawn out in The English Regional Chair (that’s not surprising, as we’re 30 years further on, and we have the advantage of internet searching). Secondly, I have examples of both these types of chair showing some characteristics that link them to Clissett’s ladderback. So I can expand further on the minimal link made in Bill Cotton’s book between Clissett and Kerry – or, rather, there is further evidence here that suggests there needn’t have been any direct link at all, merely a working in a particular thread in the West Midlands tradition.
To follow this up, I’ll post on each of these chairs in turn.
You can click on the images below to enlarge them...