W.A.S Benson | 3 Branch Arts & Crafts Ceiling Light | England c.1900
A rare and delicate arts and crafts ceiling light by W.A.S Benson. The small brass fitting hangs pendant from the original Benson ceiling rose with original “bijou” vaseline glass lampshades of exceptional quality by James Powell & Sons of Whitefriars. The piece is apparently unsigned. England c.1900
Provenance: See final picture of light from W.A.S Benson Catalogue Pl.13 No.1170
Ht.90cm/35.5in, Diam.30/12, Ht.(shade)8/3, W.10/4
William Arthur Smith Benson, London
- William Arthur Smith Benson was an Arts and Crafts designer who campaigned with the National Exhibition of the Arts for “Crafts” to be exhibited as an art form which lead to the formation of the Arts and Crafts movement of the time.
- He originally studied Classics and Philosophy at Oxford but after finishing decided that he would be more suited to architecture, combining art and engineering, two of his interests.
- Benson began making metalwork and went on to set up his own workshop where he created and sold new designs specialising in the area of lighting.
- By 1900 Benson had reached his zenith both in England and on the continent. In Paris Benson’s light’s were displayed in Siegfrield Bing’s gallery “Maison L’art Nouveau”.
- Benson often, but not exclusively, used James Powell & Sons of Whitefriars to supply the glass lampshades for his fittings.
- Today Benson is considered to be the premier British arts and crafts lighting manufacturer of the period with his pieces being most sought after.
Whitefriars Glass Company, London
James Powell & Sons/ Harry Powell
- In 1834 James Powell, then a 60-year-old London wine merchant and entrepreneur, purchased the Whitefriars Glass Company, a small glass-works off Fleet Street in London.
- Powell, and his sons Arthur and Nathanael, were newcomers to glass making, but soon acquired the necessary expertise and specialised in making church stain glass windows.
- When Harry Powell “Grandson of James” took over as Manager in 1876, James Crofts Powell, his cousin, ran the important stained glass department using in-house designers and famous artists like Burne-Jones for important commissions.
- From 1875 Harry Powell had a blacksmith called Edminstone with a boy called Edmund Francis employed to make wrought iron lighting fixtures, which again used his fabulous shades. He supplied many other makers with various shade shapes.
- During the latter part of the c.19th, the firm formed a close association with leading architects and designers. Whitefriars produced the glass that Phillip Webb used in his designs for William Morris
- By 1900 production lines of vaseline and opalescent glass-ware, including lampshades, were proving to be extremely successful with clients such as William Arthur Smith Benson using their glass in the design of their lights.
- The firm’s name was changed to Powell & Sons (Whitefriars) Ltd in 1919