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New acquisition - Bernard Leach charger

Bernard Leach charger

The Harris Museum & Art Gallery is celebrating an important new acquisition – made possible through the Heritage Lottery Fund.  The latest addition to the Museum’s collections is a piece by highly influential studio potter, Bernard Leach (1887-1979), an early slipware charger with ‘Well Head’ design made in 1929.

Leach was one of many pioneer potters attempting to re-define ceramic practice in the early 1900s. Spending his early childhood in the Far East and living in Japan from 1909, Leach’s career aspirations altered dramatically in 1911 when he famously attended a raku party and became captivated by the creative possibilities of ceramics. Leach sought practical tuition from master potter Shigekichi Urano (1881-1923).

His return to the UK in 1920 from Japan heralded a new chapter in British ceramic history – one that the Harris Museum & Art Gallery’s existing collection did not explore until now. Our aim in acquiring this slipware charger was to secure a piece that best encapsulates the artist’s early spirit of experimentation and his distinctive philosophy, one based on fusing the cultures of East and West, promoting the value hand of machine production, and the importance of ceramic practice as a unified creative and technical endeavour. 

The purchase of this charger was made possible through the Heritage Lottery Fund Collecting Cultures scheme – a programme which has supported Harris’ activity such as practicing pottery studio visits with museum volunteers, object handling events, The Potters Apprentice children’s events and joint working with Galloway’s Society for the Blind (Registered Charity 526088) since 2008.  Additional funding came from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and Friends of the Harris Museum & Art Gallery.

The Harris Museum & Art Gallery purchased the item at auction from a private owner through Maak, a specialist art consultancy. Marijke Varrall-Jones, founder and director of Maak said:

We were delighted that the Harris Museum was successful in purchasing this piece. I know that the museum have been looking to build on their existing collection for some time so it was immensely gratifying that they were able to acquire this piece. It was a very rare opportunity to purchase such an important and iconic example of one of Bernard Leach’s early slipware chargers from the 1920s with an impeccable provenance and it deserves to hold a significant place in a public collection.’

 Alex Walker, Head of Arts & Heritage at the Harris Museum & Art Gallery commented:

‘We are delighted to acquire this Bernard Leach charger which will make a very important addition to our existing collection of 20th century pottery.  Leach was one of the most influential studio potters and the acquisition means we can develop many more activities and events for our visitors, of all ages, to enjoy.  We’d particularly like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund, V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the Harris who made the purchase possible with their support’.

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