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Leach in the firing line,
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This review is from: Bernard Leach (St Ives Artists series) (British Artists Series) (Paperback)
De Waal is now a super-star ceramic artist whose tiniest porcelain cylinders sell for thousands. . As a potter his work is very fashionable, if over-rated. However he writes well. Best known for the enchanting "Hare with Amber Eyes", his earlier work is less familiar.
This monograph on Bernard Leach, the grand old man and founding philosopher of the 20th century studio pottery movement in the UK, is both revealing and disappointing. De Waal pinpoints the obvious contradictions in Leach's life and work. Upholding the virtues of the "anonymous craftsman" on the one hand, Leach's own work was never anonymous, always high-priced, and aimed at galleries from the outset. As De Waal shows, much of the throwing of Leach's pots was done for him by others. His role was primarily that of decorator/artist/designer. His training had been in etching and graphics rather than clay, hence the designer aspect of his work, often better in the drawing than in the clay. His orientalism was in keeping with the style of his times, his dismissal of much traditional European pottery a blindspot.
De Waal's book is a useful guide and does much to demythologise a man who was the single most influential artist/potter of the 20th century. Many people hate this book for that very reason. But it is well written and informative, even if it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.