Alice Buxton Winnicott (NC 1912)

1891 – 1968 (Taylor, NC 1912)

As a young research scientist, Alice Buxton Taylor worked on the material properties of ceramics and glass, testing how they behaved under pressure and high temperatures at the National Physics Laboratory. The sheer pleasure of working with these materials inspired her to make a complete career change to study art. She later wrote: ‘While working during the war of 1914–1918 with meltings of metal and glass at high temperatures I could not help being surprised at the extreme beauty of the simple Morgan fireclay crucible. How much more lovely than anything produced on the market! Such beauty and simplicity of line could not be found in any known article sold either for use domestically or for ornament’s sake; I suddenly became filled with desire to produce simple, beautiful shapes in earthenware or china which could be continuous in supply, useful and within the range of the purse of the ordinary man.’

In her artistic career, she not only painted but created beautiful, simple and sturdy ceramics, based on her deep knowledge of their physical properties. For over a decade she ran her own pottery and her ‘Claverdon’ dinner set was stocked at Heal’s. She ran the company in a way very ahead of her time, with the wellbeing of her staff always in mind. She was determined to help people with her art, working with the homeless in the interwar period and giving art therapy in a hospital during the Second World War. A great admirer of T.E. Lawrence, one of her finest works is a bust of him in tribute after his death. She was married to the famous psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott; it was a troubled marriage that ended in 1951.

Alice continued to make art into old age, and several of her pieces are in Newnham’s decorative art collection. They were exhibited, together with the self-portrait above, in one of the display cases in the Dorothy Garrod Building in 2019–20.

Dr Maartje Scheltens, with thanks to Dr Julie Greer for help with the text and for permission to reproduce Alice’s self-portrait.