The WAG began collecting in the field of decorative arts in the 1950s when it accepted a collection of objects, the bequest of Melanie Bolton-Hill.
Since then, the Gallery has amassed over 4,000 objects in ceramic, glass, metal, and textile, which document and exemplify the aesthetics, techniques, and social import of the decorative arts from the 17th to the 21st centuries. Like painting and sculpture, objects of ceramic, glass, and metal are valuable social documents of their time. Beyond their obvious strong aesthetic qualities, these objects had intimate connections to the daily life of their owners, and to social custom, contemporary taste, class distinction, and fashion.
The strength of the decorative arts collection lies in its holdings of 18th and 19th English ceramics, one of the finest collections in the country. Over 1,500 objects tell the story of the development of the British potteries, the discovery of the porcelain formula, as well as the influence of Chinese patterns on European production.