About this lot


§ John Maltby (British, 1936-2020), King,
a stoneware model of a crowned head mounted on a stepped stoneware base, impressed seal mark to underside 36cm high

Footnote: Whilst he did not necessarily aspire to great prestige, there can be no doubt that by the time of his death in December 2020, John Maltby had firmly established an international reputation as one of the most significant and most collected British ceramicists of his generation, if not of the 21st Century. Born in the Lincolnshire seaside town of Cleethorpes in 1936, Maltby trained for his degree at Leicester College of Art where he specialised in sculpture before spending a further year of study at Goldsmiths College, London. In 1962, having only recently read Bernard Leach’s ‘A Potter’s Book’, Maltby and his new wife, Heather, ventured on a trip to St Ives, Cornwall, to meet the renowned potter. Though impulsive, this meeting proved to be a seismic event in Maltby’s life and prompted him to pursue a career in ceramics under the tutelage of Bernard Leach’s son, David. After working as Leach’s apprentice for two years, during which time he honed his throwing skills and became accomplished in Anglo-Oriental techniques, in 1964 Maltby founded Stoneshill Pottery in Devon, where he continued to work until his death. Early wares produced by Maltby were mostly domestic in function and were heavily influenced by the Anglo-Oriental forms and glazes favoured by Leach. However, quickly realising that he had little interest in Eastern ceramic traditions, Maltby looked elsewhere for inspiration and discovered that the ‘naïve’ styles favoured by the previous generations of St Ives artists, such as Alfred Wallis, Christopher Wood and Ben Nicholson, offered fertile ground. Seeking to create a new brand of English studio pottery and to distil ‘Englishness’ into each and every one of the stoneware figures he created, Maltby drew inspiration from ancient English folklore and often featured an ensemble cast of kings, queens, angels, and knights. Meeting at the junction between art and anthropology, Maltby’s figures are at once rooted in the ancient and the English but are also in dialogue with the modern world and, borrowing decorative motifs from Oceanic and African sculpture, with broader world art cultures.

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