The present work is a rare, signed example by the Irish-born artist Thomas Frye, who is best known as the inventor of bone-ash English porcelain and the founder of the Bow China Factory. The processes he invented changed pottery forever. A comment on Frye in the Hibernian Magazine, dating to January 1789 stated the following:

It is asserted that he was indebted to strong and natural genius only for his knowledge in the art he possessed, from which it may be presumed that his master, for he had one, was neither eminent nor skilful.[1]

Frye was born in Edenderry, King’s County, Ireland in 1710. A ‘clever and versatile artist’, he executed portraits in oil, pastel and mezzotint.[2] Very little is known of his early life, but it is believed that he studied art in Ireland before moving to London to formally pursue a career as an artist, and in particular, as a portrait painter. A notable achievement in...

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The present work is a rare, signed example by the Irish-born artist Thomas Frye, who is best known as the inventor of bone-ash English porcelain and the founder of the Bow China Factory. The processes he invented changed pottery forever. A comment on Frye in the Hibernian Magazine, dating to January 1789 stated the following:

It is asserted that he was indebted to strong and natural genius only for his knowledge in the art he possessed, from which it may be presumed that his master, for he had one, was neither eminent nor skilful.[1]

Frye was born in Edenderry, King’s County, Ireland in 1710. A ‘clever and versatile artist’, he executed portraits in oil, pastel and mezzotint.[2] Very little is known of his early life, but it is believed that he studied art in Ireland before moving to London to formally pursue a career as an artist, and in particular, as a portrait painter. A notable achievement in his early career was his 1734 full-length portrait of Frederick Prince of Wales, commissioned for the Hall of the Saddlers in Cheapside, which attracted much attention, and facilitated several further commissions. It was on this basis that he founded his own practice. Through Mr. John Ellis, whose portrait he also painted, Frye was introduced to Sir Joshua Reynolds, whose close friendship he enjoyed throughout his life.[3]

In 1744, Frye became deeply interested in a project for making porcelain, in which he eventually invested and later patented. He became the manager of the factory responsible for producing the material, which was based in the London borough of Newnham (the bow china factory was set up near Bow Bridge and named the Bow Porcelain Manufactory of New Canton). Such was its fame; the factory is mentioned in the 1748 edition of Defoe’s A Tour of Great Britain. Ten years later, by 1758, the demand for Bow porcelain reached such a height that factory employed three-hundred workers, including ninety painters.

[1] W.G. Strickland, A Dictionary of Irish Artists, Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 1989., pp. 387

[2] Ibid.,pp. 385

[3] Ibid., pp. 386

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500 Years of British Art