Posts Tagged ‘Freeman’s’

Ceramics | Made by Hand: Modernist by Nature

Friday, December 7th, 2018

Bernard Leach,
Charger with banded
decoration, St Ives,
England, c 1960s
Estimate $500 > 700

Philadelphia |
Exhibition > 10 December 2018
Sale 10 December 2018

Lucie Rie,
Handled dish,
London, late 1950s
Estimate $1,000 > 1,500

The British studio pottery illustrated alongside this piece and shortly to be sold at auction, dates from between the late 1950s and the early 1970s, when Brutalist architecture – much of which has since been demolished – flourished, however, each item was lovingly produced by hand and with the greatest sensitivity to materials.

During this period, even the elderly Bernard Leach (1887 > 1979), often referred to as the father of British studio pottery, who co-founded The Leach Pottery in remote Cornwall in 1920 and had been extremely influential, who adopted the folk-tradition approach espoused in the 19th century by William Morris, was producing pieces, such as his Charger with banded decoration, top, that would have looked very much at home against raw concrete, brutalist interiors.

Hans Coper
Composite form with
ertical impression,
Frome, 1970
Estimate $6,000 > 8,000

At a time when many of his peers were abandoning city life and heading for the country, it was significant that Ian Godfrey (1942 > 1992), like his mentor, Lucie Rie, chose to set up his pottery in urban central London in the 1960s. Godfrey made highly individual mythological and fantasy-based, decorative pieces, inspired by predynastic Mediterranean and Chinese bronze forms. His King & Queen in Court and Bowl with wheel design, are both included, alongside other examples of his work in this sale. Born in Austria, Rie (1902-1995) had established herself as a ceramicist in Vienna, where she came under the influence of the Secessionist, Josef Hoffman. She is, however, better known for the work she produced after fleeing the Nazis and relocating to London in 1938. Developing a style stimulated by contemporary architecture and design, which flew in the face of Leach’s philosophy, Rie, who is represented by a single, modest item in this auction, see above, was responsible for raising British studio pottery to the level of an art form that would stand alongside any other and for giving it a Modernist edge. She taught at the Camberwell School of Art from 1960 to 1971, where Godfrey was her star student, and received an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art in 1969.

Ian Godfrey,
King & Queen in Court,
London, c 1965
Estimate $800 > 1,200

Ian Godfrey,
Bowl with wheel design,
London, c 1965
Estimate $200 > 300

Rie’s fellow emigré, the German, Hans Coper (1920-1981) had turned up, penniless, at her workshop in 1946 looking for work but with no previous experience in a pottery studio. With her encouragement, he went on to become one of Britain’s most celebrated craftsmen. Coper also taught at Camberwell – where he also taught Ian Godfrey – and at the Royal College of Art. His pieces, such as Composite form with vertical impression, above, were often made up of individual, separately thrown shapes that he manipulated and joined to create abstract sculptural forms.

Joanna Constantinidis,
Untitled envelope form,
Essex, England 1970
Estimate $400 > 600

The early work of Joanna Constantinidis (1927 > 2000), born in York, who trained at Sheffield before moving to Essex, owed much to Leach. Singularly independent, however, having seen work by Rie and Coper, by the 1960s she had adjusted her approach and developed spare Modernist forms, like the one above, that drew inspiration from ancient Greece, medieval pottery, Staffordshire slipware and salt glaze.

Although they might well have been, the items shown were not excavated from a site where a British brutalist building once stood but have been languishing, far away from their place of origin, in important US collections in Washington DC, San Francisco, New York and Pennsylvania. Along with further items of British studio pottery items that extend the genre’s story into the 21st century, the forthcoming Design sale at Freeman’s includes some 130 lots and offers a varied selection of master American studio artisans.

All images courtesy Freeman’s

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