The spirited writer/socialite/artist Fleur Cowles, who died in 2009 at the venerable age of 101, designed several sculptures for Connoisseur of Malvern as well as for several other noted British firms such as Denby and Border Fine Arts.
An American – a Brooklynite, her name was actually Florence Friedman – by birth, she combined her experience as a painter, writer and editor when she launched a short-lived but critically acclaimed magazine called Flair in the 1950s. She originally entered the publishing world via her third marriage, to Gardner Cowles Jr. (pronounced “coals”) whose family owned several newspapers and national magazines. After they divorced she kept his surname even though she subsequently remarried; it was her fourth husband who relocated the family to England and Europe. (A more detailed review of her life can be found here.)
Ms. Cowles adored flowers (especially roses) and her art often combined them with jungle animals, particularly the “big cats”. Her relationship with Connoisseur began in 1989 when arrangements were made to produce a range of sculptures based on her original drawings and paintings. Richard Roberts designed all of the felines. Diane Lewis designed the flowers, which is why the flower-only pieces have Diane Lewis’ name on the backstamp. The mixed feline-and-flower studies do not have either designer’s name shown.
Unfortunately, due to Ms. Cowles’ advancing age and declining health, the series was short-lived and thus was not as widely marketed as it otherwise would have been. Very few retail brochures were printed. Shown below are some of her designs for Connoisseur of Malvern, produced during the early 1990s.
This semi-double striped camellia is a fine example of Connoisseur’s attention to detail in sculpting and painting. Unfortunately the final stage (the backstamp) did not fare as well! The second photo shows what happens when the piece is “under-fired”, i.e., the kiln temperature was not quite hot enough to melt the decals’ glue into invisibility. The absence of a sculpture name probably indicates that this imperfect piece was never sent out for retail sale. It is 9″ long and 3.5″ high (approx. 23 cm x 9 cm.)
This piece is titled Camellia with Tiger; its condition was cited as being “with some losses” without stating exactly where the damage is. It’s possible that the badly-fired camellia shown previously was intended for one of these.
Tulip with Cheetah was also an open edition. Its exact dimensions are unknown but it was doubtless similar in size to the other “feline with flower” pieces, and appears to have the same base section as the Camellia with Tiger.
Thanks to Susan Fox, this beautiful Rose with Tiger can be added to the list of sculptures designed by Fleur Cowles for Connoisseur; it too probably dates from 1990 or 1991. This piece has a fascinating backstory which can be read in this post on Susan’s blog, Gaga’s Garden®. Thanks again for sharing this, Susan! 🙂
Poppy Lover is a similar design that also has a medallion affixed to the base. This was an edition of 50 and so it’s likely that the Tulip Lover was the same. Its dimensions, while unknown, are undoubtedly similar to the other piece although taller. The typical black central blotch of the Oriental Poppy was considerably enlarged for dramatic effect!
Any additional examples of Fleur Cowles designs for Connoisseur will appear in future, as discovered.
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