Henry Rothschild (1913-2009)
Born in Frankfurt in 1913, Henry Rothschild attended a philanthropic Jewish primary school and a Modern Language secondary school before reading Chemistry at Frankfurt University. Following Hitler’s rise to power, he left Germany for Britain and continued his studies at King’s College, London and Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge. Having graduated with a degree in Chemistry and Zoology in 1936, Rothschild worked in private banking in London and volunteered for the Territorial Army as soon as war broke out. His interest in local crafts first came to the fore when he was posted to Italy as an officer in the Royal Ordnance Corps. Impressed by the pottery and weaving he had seen in Arezzo and Assisi, he explored English craftsmen and -women when he returned to Britain in 1944. Just out of his army uniform, Rothschild traded as Primavera in the City of London in 1945 and then moved to Chelsea's famous Sloane Street in 1946. Both art gallery and retail outlet, Primavera traded first in ceramics and then also furniture and textiles. 1953 saw the first exhibition at Primavera, devoted to two European potters. Later shows featured such distinguished ceramicists as Gordon Baldwin, Hans Coper, Ruth Duckworth, Ian Godfrey, Bernard Leach and Lucie Rie, as well as African textiles and folk art from Mexico and Peru. A success with both the public and the press, Rothschild and his wife Pauline opened a second shop on King’s Parade in Cambridge in 1960. While the London shop eventually had to close, the Cambridge shop – although now in other hands – continues to go from strength to strength.
A major supporter of hand-made ceramics, furniture and textiles in the second half of the twentieth century, Rothschild encouraged public appreciation of quality craft and modern design, supported art education in schools and assisted local education authorities and museums to build up representative collections. First Secretary of the British section of UNESCO's World Crafts Council, Rothschild also assembled an important collection of twentieth-century ceramics, now in the Shipley Museum in Gateshead.
Long resident in Cambridge, the Fitzwilliam Museum honoured Rothschild with an exhibition in 1996, entitled ‘Primavera: Pioneering Art and Design, 1945-1995’. Rothschild, in turn, presented a number of ceramic and wooden craft objects to the Fitzwilliam Museum, amongst which are Hans Coper’s Spade-shaped Form and [TBC by Henry Rothschild]. In 1999, Anglia Ruskin University awarded Rothschild an Honorary Master of Arts.
A. Greg (ed.), Primavera: Pioneering Craft and Design 1945-1995, Tyne and Wear Museum, 1995, published to accompany the exhibition at The Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead 16 September-12 November 1995, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge 23 January-2 June 1996 and Paisley Museum and Art Gallery 18 July-14 September 1996
Anglia Ruskin University Honorary Master of Arts, 1999 - citation
Henry Rothschild is included in the Gallery Trail leaflet Hidden Histories: Cambridge Collectors, available in the Fitzwilliam Museum.
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