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Date: 1923

Media: earthenware

Size: h(cm) : 18.6 x d(cm) : 14.3 x h(in) : 7 3/8,h(cm)

Acquired: 1924; Purchase

Accession Number: NMW A 32116

On the left side of this image is a jar by Bernard Leach. Writing from his St Ives Pottery in January 1924 to his uncle Dr William Evans Hoyle, then the National Museum’s first Director, Bernard Leach described this jar as ‘the best pot of the same [slip] ware which I have made in England’. The tree motif on each side was a Leach favourite, the restless incised lines echoing the style of his etchings, the art form he pursued before taking up pottery. The mottling of the ground was probably done with the wrong end of a bamboo-handled brush. While the pot itself is described by Leach as ‘English slip ware’, the style of decoration echoes the ‘drawing clean and spirited’ of a Chinese Song-dynasty Cizhou stoneware vase that Leach admired. Leach struggled to make a living in the 1920s and 1930s but went on to become the century’s most influential potter. Through his pots, his writings and his eloquent proselytising, he inspired generations of potters to imitate his Orientalising manner. While he considered East Asian – and particularly Song-dynasty Chinese – pottery to be ‘the noblest achievement in ceramics’, in seventeenth-century English slipware he found an authentic indigenous counterpart worthy of emulation.

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