Beethoven 250

This year, the world is celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven, the creative genius whose music continues to inspire and enrich our lives. The impressive portrait bust by Richard Garbe for Royal Doulton also inspires visitors at WMODA.

Richard Garbe’s bust of Beethoven was made in terracotta at Royal Doulton’s factory in London in 1933, a century after the great composer’s death. It was based on a sculpture exhibited by Garbe at the Royal Academy in 1932, which was considered the work of the year. The portrait is an excellent likeness of Beethoven based on death masks taken when he died in 1827.

A special ivory porcelain body was developed for Garbe's sculptures, which were inspired by his ivory carvings, notably Primavera now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. His bust of Beethoven was issued in white porcelain as HN1778 in 1933 and reproduced in a limited edition of 25 which had sold out by 1939.

Beethoven represents the transition between the classical and romantic eras in classical music. The young piano virtuoso became famous for his innovative compositions in Vienna during the 1790s. He continued to perform his piano concertos and conduct his symphonies in the early 1800s, but his hearing gradually deteriorated resulting in complete deafness by 1811. The tortured genius then gave up performing and appearing in public. Beethoven’s musical career is often divided into three periods—his early Viennese style; his middle period when his large-scale works express his heroic struggle against his encroaching deafness; and his late period with highly personal compositions of great intellectual depth and formal innovations.

Richard Garbe (1876-1957) was one of the most distinguished sculptors of the Art Deco era. As well as his terracotta and stoneware work for Doulton’s Lambeth pottery, he designed the first limited edition figures for the HN series produced at the Burslem factory between 1933 and 1939.

In more recent times, Royal Doulton paid tribute to Beethoven with a portrait figure by Robert Tabbenor for their Pioneers series. In 1970, Wedgwood made a portrait medallion of Beethoven to mark the bicentennial of his birth. The oval plaque was designed in black basalt by Eric Owen, Wedgwood’s chief sculptor. Read more about black basalt wares... Classic Black


Richard Garbe: Art Deco Sculptor

Hear the overture from the Creatures of Prometheus