The Office of Public Works is pleased to announce the opening of a major exhibition dedicated to Ireland’s most successful design-entrepreneur of the eighteenth century, Thomas Frye (1710-1762).
Born in 1710, most likely in Edenderry, County Offaly, Frye moved to London as a young man, where he quickly established himself as a successful portrait painter. From the mid-1740s Frye ran a factory in Bow, just east of the City of London, set up to recreate Chinese porcelain which had been admired in Europe for centuries. Under Frye’s management the Bow factory thrived, producing inexpensive ceramics both decorative and utilitarian in a variety of designs.
Frye was among the earliest European artists to collapse the distinction between ‘high’ art and factory-produced design. In an age of increasing specialisation, the manner in which he ranged freely across multiple techniques and media was unique.
Although his name is scarcely known today outside specialist circles, Frye has a strong claim to the title of Ireland’s most successful printmaker, industrial artist and design entrepreneur.
At the same time Frye’s career in London illustrates the incipient globalization of the period. Frye attempted to emulate Chinese technology with raw materials from north America.
This exhibition sets side-by-side his portraiture in oil, his enamel miniatures, his mezzotints and the production of the Bow porcelain factory under his management. For the first time equal emphasis is afforded to each facet of this supremely gifted and highly innovative Irish artist.
The exhibition includes loans from the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Foundling Museum, London, the Holburne Museum, Bath, the National Gallery of Ireland and leading private collections.
William Laffan, the curator of the exhibition states:
“Frye must be acknowledged as a pioneering figure in portraiture, porcelain and printmaking, and as one of the most inventive and ‘ingenious’ artists of the Georgian era.”