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A Rare Bernard Leach Vase

13th July 2021.

A rare stoneware vase by Bernard Leach is set to star in the 20th Century Design Sale on 9th October, when it comes under the hammer with an estimate of £4,000-6,000 (plus buyer’s premium). The vase includes the impress potter’s seal, St Ives mark and England mark, and measures 33cm high.

The Tree of Life Vase was made circa 1958 and was purchased by the vendor’s mother direct from the potter in St Ives whilst the family were on holiday in Cornwall circa 1959. The vendor’s mother was herself a potter and had written to Bernard Leach in 1957 evidently enquiring about the possibility of training with him. Leach’s letter in reply was found folded inside the vase and is being sold with the lot.


Bernard Leach (1887-1979) was the pre-eminent artist- potter of the 20th century. Both a great maker and a great teacher, Leach exerted the utmost influence on the development of studio pottery, which is felt to this day. Drawing on technical and aesthetic influences from both East and West, he established the Leach Pottery in St Ives in 1920, where he strove to elevate ceramics to the status of the Fine Arts and challenge homogeneous mass-produced pottery.

After the Second World War, Leach reached the height of his artistic powers. He was the most highly regarded British potter and was accepted as an artist in Japan. The Tree of Life motif appears on pieces of his work from the mid-1940s. The motif was influenced by a Han-dynasty tomb carving Leach had seen on a trip to China. In a biographical note, the artist wrote that ‘The subject is derived from very old traditions and maybe regarded as symbolic’. He does not elucidate as to what the symbol meant to him personally.

Comparable examples of the vase are held in the York City Art Gallery, Leicester City Museums and The British Council.


View Sale Details

For further information please contact 20th Century Design Specialist Diane Sinnott.

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