The story of the first decade of the Boehm porcelain studio in Malvern, England, is entwined with those of two other venerable British makers: Royal Worcester and Connoisseur of Malvern. This initial post about ‘Malvern Boehm’ covers the sculptures produced during the 1970s; the plaques and decorative plates issued during those years will be examined separately.
The tale of Boehm of Malvern’s founding is told in depth on my Connoisseur of Malvern site, but a quick synopsis is this: After the death of Edward Marshall Boehm, his wife Helen took over the New Jersey studio and decided to expand the operation by establishing a satellite studio in the UK. This was accomplished in 1970 by purchasing the small but extremely high quality Cranleigh Art Ceramics owned by Diane and Terry Lewis. The new company, incorporated in February 1971 as Boehm of Malvern England Ltd, was located on Tanhouse Lane in the village of Malvern in Worcestershire. In order to accommodate the expected increased demand, local advertisements were placed asking for people with experience in ceramics to apply; most of them were current or former Royal Worcester artists, as were the Lewises themselves who remained to manage the new operation. Only a few years later they required more facilities and obtained permission from the town authorities to add more square footage to the original structure, including a “slip house and a casting area.”
Materials and Backstamps
As discussed on my other page, which also includes a number of photos of the first years’ sculptures, a key difference between the output of the Malvern and New Jersey studios was the chemical composition of the porcelain. The British studio used bone porcelain, but the American operation used a “hardpaste” formula. Bone porcelain is much more amenable to hand-forming elements such as flowers and leaves, which is why the floral designs from the Malvern studio often exhibit superior detail and workmanship. During 1975 the UK studio did create several designs in the hardpaste formula at Trenton’s request but never used it again after that.
These backstamps are examples of those appearing on limited edition sculptures produced in the 1970s. The “default” logo during this decade was the horse-and-crown stamp. Notice the slight variation of the material description: Porcelain, Bone Porcelain, or Bone China. All three mean the exact same thing – at least in the UK, where “bone china” = porcelain. However, in America the term ‘bone china’ refers to a different material which is not porcelain.
Here are two non-limited edition stamps. Boehm used their own terminology to describe pieces that were not limited editions; “open” meant “still in active production” but after production was stopped, the piece was then described as “nonlimited.”
It is typical of Boehm plant and wildlife sculptures to include the Latin name of the subject below the sculpture title. The five-digit number is the design code, the intricacies of which are addressed next.
Boehm of Malvern Design Numbers
Design numbers assigned by the UK studio followed a set formula, which also enabled them to be differentiated from the products of the New Jersey operation. During the 1970s the first three digits always indicated whether a piece was a limited or nonlimited issue. The very first piece issued by the Malvern studio was design #1001. As soon as the series reached five digits, a hyphen was typically put between the third and fourth which is why I refer to them as the “100 series”, “200 series” and so on. Throughout the 1970s the first three digits also represented the category of the subject of the sculpture; in the mid-1980s that rule of thumb was altered somewhat. This list below covers the entire operating timeframe of the Malvern Boehm studio, not just the 1970s addressed in this post.
1001 through 100-55 = Limited edition birds, 1970s to early/mid 1980s
100-55 through 100-99 = Limited edition animals, fish, and some birds. Starting in the mid 1980s.
101-xx series = Limited edition animals and birds; caution is needed because some examples were made in the USA even though bearing a Malvern design code. Ranges from the 1980s to early 1990s.
102-xx = Limited edition birds but also some limited edition human studies. Mid 1980s to early 1990s.
103-xx = Limited edition florals, mid to late 1980s
104-xx = Limited edition florals and/or birds, late 1980s to early 1990s
200-xx = nonlimited edition birds, 1970s to mid 1980s
201-xx = nonlimited edition animals, 1970s to mid 1980s
202-xx = nonlimited edition birds, mid 1980s onward
203-xx = at least some of this number series were “theme series”, such as the Children of the World which were in the 203-30’s range. I have so far seen only six pieces in the 203-xx series.
204-xx = nonlimited edition flowers, late 1980s
205-xx = this may have been a special series of late 1980s nonlimited flowers
230-xx = used only for the late 1980s “animals in the round” nonlimited series
250-xx = nonlimited florals during the 1980s
260-xx = assigned to the Rare Wildflowers Collection done for the World Wildlife Fund in 1982
300-xx = Limited edition florals from 1971 to 1982
301-xx = Limited edition florals from the 1980s
4001 through 4004 ONLY = the Moments in Nature limited-edition animal group series from 1971. These four pieces are illustrated on my other site’s page. All other 400 series Boehm pieces were made in the USA, not in England, and are typically nonlimited editions.
500-xx = Limited edition animals from 1971 to the mid 1980s
550-xx = Limited edition series that may have extended only to horses; first half of 1980s.
The 600-xx series throws a monkey wrench into the entire lineup because they were first used in 1976/77 Malvern for Limited Edition handpainted plaques, then only by the NJ studio for decorative plates, and then transferred back to Malvern again in the 1980s (600-01 onward) for use on their mixed porcelain/bronze series! To make matters worse, they re-used some of the same numbers that had already been used for different things in the 1970s.
601-xx = a mixture of Limited and nonlimited florals, some sold via the Hamilton Collection; mid 1980s.
620-xx = Limited edition porcelain-with-ormolu (gilded bronze) flowers from the mid 1980s. There may have been only one or two in this series.
640-xx = Limited edition porcelain-with-bronze birds, mid 1980s.
670-xx = Limited edition porcelain-with-bronze fairies, offered to Collectors Club members in 1986
7001 through 7007 only = seven human studies from 1975 and 1977. They are all illustrated in my other post. Starting with 7008 (a small salt-cellar in the form of a swan) this design code series was reassigned to their home décor pieces, most of which were made in Trenton. However, the aforementioned swan salts were produced at the Malvern studio.
BW series = white bisque cupids astride various animals. Most of the BW-series pieces were made in Trenton but for some reason these were done at Malvern. Production years are unknown but possibly late 1980s or early 1990s.
I have never seen a Malvern Boehm design number higher than 7007, and currently maintain a list of all Boehm of Malvern design numbers as a Word document that is updated as I find new backstamps. Many of the nonlimited edition stamps (and some limited ones as well) do not include the design number, so there are some “gaps”, but all design numbers that I have found are there. If you would like a copy of the list, simply ask via the contact form on the About the Chatsworth Lady page and I’ll be happy to email it to you.
By the way, the design numbers on Malvern backstamps may or may not contain a hyphen. The non-hyphenated versions seem to be more prevalent after the mid-1980s. I use the hyphenated format because I think it makes the number easier to read.
Boehm of Malvern issued at least 50 limited and nonlimited edition bird studies from 1971 through 1978. Thirteen of those studies are illustrated in my other post, along with a complete list of all the 1970s bird studies, their issue year, and their design number. Here are sixteen others, with the limited editions shown first.
Nuthatch with Fly Agaric (design 1001) was the very first retail piece from the Malvern Boehm studio. Made from 1971-1975, it is a limited edition of 350, standing 8″ high and as wide. The third photo shows artist Christopher Burns painting one in 1972.
Yellowhammers with Hawthorn, from 1973, was a declared edition of 400 but only 350 were made. It is 11″ high, 11.5″ wide, and 10.5″ deep. The second photo is a contemporary magazine advertisement from the Marshall Fields department store.
The Screech Owl was also a 1973 issue, of 500, and standing 10.5″ high.
Another 1973 edition is the Peregrine, with a height of 21″ and a wingspread of 19″. An issue of 350.
Unfortunately I have only this black-and-white bookpage scan of Stonechats with Blackberry and Brambles from 1974, a declared issue of 350 that is 12″ high.
A real production challenge was presented by Swallows with Marsh Marigolds and Reeds. Issued in 1974 as an edition of 350, only 68 of them had been successfully completed twelve years later (1986)! I have no idea how many were ultimately made but I’d be surprised if it were even as many as 100. This piece is 18″ high and almost 12″ wide.
A 1975 issue of 500, the European Goldfinch inexplicably says “British Goldfinch” on the backstamp – despite the fact that this bird (Carduelis carduelis) is native to more parts of the world than just the UK. Our American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis, is an entirely different bird.
Design number 100-23 was assigned twice but only used once in retail production. It was originally given to the 1975 study Crossbills with Beech which proved to be a production nightmare and was never released. The number was reassigned to Rivoli’s Hummingbird with Hibiscus the following year (1976.)
The Grey Wagtail with Arum has been variously described as either a 1978 or a 1979 release, so it’s right on the cusp of the ‘management change’ from the Diane Lewis era at Boehm of Malvern. It was almost certainly designed while she was still there, however. Its declared edition was only 150, and thirteen of them were definitely made but as to any others, it’s murky. This piece is 11″ high.
(Limited editions shown in my other site’s post: Winter Robin, Barn Owl, Blue Tits with Apple Blossom, Long Tailed Tits with Gorse, Woodpeckers with Morning Glories, Song Thrushes on Crab Apple, Crested Tit with Kerria Japonica, Chaffinch with Double Cherry, and Crossbills with Beech.)
Here are six examples of nonlimited editions from the mid 1970s. The first four were 1975 designs cast in the Trenton Hardpaste formula. The next two were made in Malvern’s usual bone porcelain.
Peregrine fledgling, 1974, 5″ high.
Common Tern fledgling, 1974, 5″ high
Bridled Titmouse 1975, 10.5″ high
Carolina Wren with Mushroom, 1975, 7.5″ high
Robin with Snowdrops, 1976 or 1977, 8″ high. Notice the difference in the delicacy of the floral elements made possible by the bone porcelain, compared to the simpler shapes of the hardpaste items.
Wren with Campanula, 1978, 6.5″ high.
(Shown in my other post: Jenny Wren, Cuckoo, Saw Whet Owl, and Willow Warbler with Pussywillow.)
The Malvern studio also issued at least 50 limited and unlimited floral studies during their first decade. Fourteen of them are shown in my other post, and here are more.
One of the early pieces was the Double Peony (#3007) in 1974. This 3.5″ x 8.5″ study was a declared edition of 500, and after two years 137 of them had been made. This is a tree peony. This design was the replacement piece for the open edition Peony #200-15 in 1973 which turned out to be an absolute packing/shipping horror and was discontinued.
This intriguing piece with the lovely coloration is Blue Waterlily with Swamp Fly, also from 1974. Its declared edition of 750 may not have been fully completed. It is 3.5″ high and 8″ long.
One of several designs named in honor of “the boss” was the Helen Boehm Iris in 1978, an edition of only 175 and measuring 9″ long.
Another water-flower was the Pink Lotus in 1978, another edition of 175. It is 11″ in diameter but only a bit more than 5″ high. The description of this particular example said “with a loose butterfly and lizard” ….but it seems as if the lizard has ‘escaped’!
The vividly colored Tropicana Rose, 1978, of an unknown edition size but at least 284 were made. Another wideline piece at 12″ long.
1978 was a banner year for flower sculptures; here is the Pascali Rose with Freesias, with a likewise mysterious edition size, standing 10″ high.
I wish there were more photos of the Double Clematis Centrepiece, an edition of only 150 from (when else?!) 1978. It is 13″ high.
A blue rose, blooming only at Boehm. Rose Blue Moon, an edition of 500 from 1978.
And to round out my limited edition selections, the Spanish Iris (#300-29) an issue of 500 but of unknown height, from 1978.
Boehm of Malvern produced a bumper crop of confusing camellias during their initial decade, both in limited and open editions. At least the limited editions had the names in the backstamp – something that often didn’t happen with the nonlimited designs! For example, the only marks appearing on the 1972 Pat Nixon Camellia (#200-12) are the script name “Boehm” and the words “Made in England” on the underside of the stem end.
The very first Malvern Boehm camellia study was the 1974 Debutante Camellia with Viburnum in a declared edition of 500. It is 3.5″ high and 8.5″ long. Its design number is 3008 which puts it within the studio’s first ten limited edition floral studies overall.
Swan Lake Camellia from 1976, an edition of 750 measuring 5.75″ x 10.5″. The example shown has several areas of loss to its leaf tips and flower stamens.
Two camellias named in honor of the Boehms were introduced in 1978, both in editions of 500 each and of similar dimensions (about 4″ high and 8″ wide.) The upper (pink) sculpture is the Edward Boehm Camellia and the lower one is the Helen Boehm Camellia.
The Pat Nixon Camellia was a nonlimited edition in 1972. It sold for $145 during most of its production. The third photo shows the actual Camellia ‘Pat Nixon’ flower, a Camellia japonica cultivar registered in 1974.
Here are three other nonlimited edition 1970s florals:
The Queen’s Masterpiece Rose from1972, 8″ long, design #2006.
A Single Peony issued in 1973, 10″ long and 5.25″ high. I have never seen a color photo of this piece and so have no idea whether it is white or a very pale pink. (In this case “single” refers to the flower’s form, not to the quantity portrayed.)
I have always been captivated by the rare and notoriously difficult-to-grow Himalayan blue poppy, Meconopsis betonicifolia. Here is Diane Lewis’ version of the Blue Poppy for Boehm in 1975: a single glorious bloom and burgeoning bud, atop an almost impossibly fragile porcelain stem. Length is almost 11″ overall, and the flower 4.5″ in diameter.
(Shown in my other post: the Swan Centrepiece, Yellow Daisies, Sweet Viburnum, Chrysanthemum and Bamboo, Chrysanthemum with Butterfly, Streptocalyx poeppigii, Magnolia Grandiflora with Monarch, Queen of Night Cactus, Orchid Cactus, and Rhododendron fastuosum with Butterfly limited editions. Also shown there are the nonlimited Malvern Rose, Iceberg Rose, Blue Iris, and the original Roses of the Rainbow series.)
1970s Animals and People
A number of the 1970s Boehm of Malvern animals are illustrated in my other post, but here are four more entries into the overview.
The 500-xx design numbers began with what the studio called their “Endangered Animals Series” in 1975. The Puma group was the second of those, assigned design number 5002 with a declared edition of 100; but a year later only 26 of them had actually been made. It’s quite possible that the final edition may have been as few as 50. Like a number of the other 1975 issues, this was cast using the Trenton hardpaste formula. It is 13″ high overall, including the 2″ thick wood base upon which it sits, and 20″ wide.
When the Snow Leopard was issued in 1978 the studio had already returned to using their normal bone porcelain formula exclusively. At design #500-7 it’s uncertain whether this was designated as an Endangered Animals sculpture but it seems likely; there is no indication on the backstamps of any of the animals as to any special collection they might be part of. Edition size is unknown but at least 40 were made. It is 12″ high, 13″ wide, and 8″ deep.
Another unknown (at present) issue size was the European Fallow Deer in 1979, an impressive 25″ high and 19″ wide. This example has a small piece missing from one antler.
The Cottontail Rabbit from 1975 is an example of a nonlimited edition made using the Trenton hardpaste. He measures 6″ x 7″ and appears to have a decidedly irked (or at least no-nonsense) expression!
(Shown in my other post are the four-sculpture Moment in Nature series from 1971, the Harvest Mice, the Nyala, and the Bengal Tiger.)
Only seven human studies were released by the Boehm of Malvern studio during the 1970s; the first five were part of their “Growing Up” series of child portraits. Two (The Paintress and Dreamaway) are shown in my other post; I have found no photo of the Melon Boy. The intended sixth sculpture, named Waiting Patiently, was never released.
The Truant was the second in the series (#7002), Melon Boy having been the first. He is 9″ high and 14″ wide. All of these child figures were made of Trenton hardpaste and issued in 1975.
True Love is a rare hardpaste sculpture that also contains handformed flower elements; it’s likely these were shaped from bone porcelain instead. This piece is 12.5″ high.
The design number that was originally allotted to Waiting Patiently (7006) was reassigned in 1977 to Beverly Sills as Manon who can be seen, along with its namesake, in my other post. She was the first in an intended new series called “Divas and Dons” which never progressed beyond the next figure (#7007) of Jerome Hines as Boris Gudonov. I have not been able to find a good photo of that piece. The 700 series design numbers were transferred permanently to the USA studio after that, where they were used on giftware and home decor items.
The Boehm of Malvern studio continued to operate until the early 1990s; I have not found any backstamps showing an issue year after 1992, despite the fact that the company was filing annual reports until 1996. Subsequent posts will cover their non-figural editions during the 1970s and also their productions from 1979 onward. Another future post will survey the output of the New Jersey studio.