Ernest A. Batchelder (1875-1957)

Ernest BatchelderErnest A. Batchelder was born in New Hampshire in 1875. He earned an arts education back east before moving to California. Batchelder became Head of the Art Department at Throop Polytechnic Institute in Pasadena, CA (now California Institute of Technology / CalTech), after having served as an instructor in metalwork, pottery, and tile-making for several years.

In comments about the tilemaker, Robert Winter, PhD has noted that Batchelder wrote two books on design and illustrated them with his own drawings. He was an expert in design and probably used his ideas in the tiles he first produced starting about 1910, after obtaining a permit to build a shed and kiln behind his house. Here, he set up a shop and school, where he fired his own tiles, including some for local architects, including Charles and Henry Greene.

As his business expanded, he employed other designers – usually his students – who worked under his close supervision. “As a result,” says Winter, “there is a harmony of style throughout the history of his company. All his tiles reflect Batchelder’s interest in a broad range of subjects – nature, music, architecture, and folklore.

green rabbit“Batchelder tiles also have a unity of texture,” Winter continues. “Apparently he [Batchelder] hated the high glosses that many of his contemporaries used in their work. He preferred a soft finish, called engobe, which makes his products harmonize with the muted beauty of Arts and Crafts interiors. His earliest tiles, those made in the ‘teens, were in earth tones touched with traces of blue-green. In the twenties, when American taste turned to various architectural revivals, Batchelder’s palette broadened to colorful production and even Mayan imagery – but the finish remained muted, soft.”

Related Exhibition

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Ernest A. Batchelder was an author, designer, educator, artist, and tilemaker who settled in Pasadena in the early 20th century. Batchelder: Tilemaker (September 21, 2016 - March 12, 2017) celebrates the recent donation to the Museum of a collection of Batchelder tiles and archives by leading Batchelder authority, Robert Winter, PhD, who also serves as exhibition curator. Read more...

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Images: Portrait of Ernest A. Batchelder. Gift of Robert Winter: Ernest A. Batchelder Tile Collection & Archives; Renowned photographer and writer, Helen Lukens Gaut, photographed the Sign of the Green Rabbit hanging in front of the Batchelder house, circa 1915 (HLG-25); Ernest Batchelder made this custom tile medallion and hung it in front of his house on the Arroyo Seco. On loan for the first time from the Batchelder Family for the Batchelder:Tilemaker exhibit; Batchelder bird tile, design #510, circa 1923. Gift of Robert Winter: Ernest A. Batchelder Tile Collection & Archives, 2015.008.077. Tiles such as this one will be on display in Batchelder: Tilemaker