- Lea Halpern
A Fine and Rare Collection of Eight Vases
five vases signed Halpern; eight bearing paper labels to the underside
- glazed earthenware
- Height of tallest: 11 inches
Estate of the Artist
Doyle New York, June 7, 1999 (for all of the vases, which were included in a collection catalogued as lots 332-374, partially illustrated)
Lin-Weinberg Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Lea Halpern, exh. cat., Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, Holland, 1974, cat. no. 33 (for a related work)
Lea Halpern, exh. cat., The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, 1976, cat. no. 29 (for a related work)
Lea Halpern (1901-85) was a Polish-born potter who studied in Berlin, Amsterdam, and Vienna. She came to New York City in 1939 to exhibit, and remained here, settling down in Baltimore. She considered herself, and was considered, an artist rather than a craftsman, her pieces to be looked at rather than used. With names such as Stormy Sky, Drifting Clouds, Frozen Fire, and Tiger Lily, her pots reveal a poetic and naturalistic bent, as well as Asian inspiration. Her mature works display a mastery over complex reduction glazes, but this seemingly effortless virtuosity was achieved through long hours of study and experimentation.
My first exposure to the work of the woman called "the van Gogh of potters" came during previews of a Doyle's sale in June of 1999. Over the course of two months, Doyle's auctioned off over 150 vessels consigned by Halpern's daughter—essentially, Lea Halpern's estate. Although Halpern had been exhibited in America numerous times, the last show had been in 1976, and I was unaware of her work. I recall spending hours at the previews, handling each bowl, vase, and dish, and marveling at the range of colors and effects, and at how the compositions shifted as the vessel turned. I was staggered by the sheer amount of material, and by its diversity and quality. From cabinet vases to massive vessels, and Asian-inspired craquelle and celadon glazes to abstract patterning in volcanic textures, this was a body of work to reckon, and an opportunity not to be missed.
I was hooked, but I was not alone. I remember two stubborn collectors who made it almost impossible to obtain any of the craquelle or celadon pieces. Fortunately, there were enough of the variegated and textured vessels I coveted for me to walk away with about 35 of my favorite pieces. Over time, these found their way to collectors and decorators—I now have only one Halpern pot left.
The present lot was featured on shelves in my clients' mid-century Ann Arbor house, and on tables and window ledges in their Montauk cliffside residence. Offered here is a second chance at a grouping of Halpern's art from her own collection.