Lot 1
  • 1

Bernard Leach

5,000 - 7,000 GBP
32,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Bernard Leach
  • Vase with 'Leaping Fish' Design
  • impressed with Artist's and Leach Pottery seals
  • stoneware with a brushed tenmoku glaze


Sale, Bonham's London, 10th November 1993, lot 21, where acquired by David Bowie


London, ROKEBY Gallery, Mud and Water, 16th December 2013 - 7th March 2014.


Exhibition of the Art of Bernard Leach: Masterpieces Loaned by the British Museum and Other Collectors, (exh. cat.), Ohara Museum, Asahi Shibun, Japan, 1980, illustrated p.115 (a comparable example);
Oliver Watson, Bernard Leach, Potter and Artist, (exh. cat.), Crafts Council, 1997, cat. no.172, illustrated p.147 (a comparable example).

Catalogue Note

Bernard Leach wrote of the ‘language and inherent laws’ of pottery, a subject that, as the founding father of the British Studio Ceramic movement, he was well placed to comment on. Born and brought up in a wealthy family in the Far East, Leach returned to England in the early twentieth century, where, with the eventual support of his father, he attended the prestigious Slade School of Art under the tutelage of the formidable Professor Henry Tonks. In London he mingled in the fashionably artistic circles of Augustus John and Henry Lamb. Inspired by their work and commercial success in the field of etching he returned to Japan, eager to embark on a career as a printmaker. Throwing himself headlong into the art scene, it was a party he attended with his friend Tomimoto Kenkichi that was to alter the course of his life forever. Leach later wrote in awe of the events that unfolded as he was presented with an unfired vessel to decorate, which was then fired. This first experience of Raku pottery fascinated him, becoming a three-dimensional realisation of everything that he had worked towards in his etchings.

Leach embarked on a ferocious study course of ceramics in the Eastern tradition, which he brought back to England in 1920, building a kiln with the assistance of the Japanese potter Shoji Hamada and establishing a studio in St Ives that was to train the next generation of craftsmen and women, including Michael Cardew and William Marshall. Here he paved the way for the advancement of a new kind of artist - the artist-craftsman. Leach refused to be bound by the traditional divide between ‘art’ and ‘craft’, and instead believed in the importance of a broader creativity that transcended these divides. Mastering both form and decoration he produced elegant thrown vessels in stoneware and porcelain that were then decorated and fired. Amongst his most iconic and recognisable pieces was his ‘Leaping Fish’ Vase, of which he made as many as fifty versions. The earliest date from 1931, produced as companion pieces to his ‘Leaping Salmon’ pattern, using the same bold calligraphic brushwork that was then combed through. With its refined and understated palette of cream and tenmoku glazing it is a love letter to the craft tradition; a never ending rhythmic circle celebrating free-flowing artistic ideals in the simplest and most basic material of fired earth.