A polychromatic fish emerges from the underglazed enamelled depths of this pottery dish by Quentin Bell. From the mid-1930s to the end of his life, Bell produced an eclectic range of ceramics including pots, cups, dishes, wall tiles and jewellery.
Speaking to art historian Isabelle Anscombe in 1979, Bell revealed:
I tend to make things that I’m going to have fun decorating. That’s one of the reasons why I make plates such a lot. When I am throwing a plate I do think, “Oh, this’ll be a lark to decorate – it’ll be a nice field of operations, so to speak”. On the whole my tendency of course is just to make whatever is in demand. … Very frequently I make things simply to meet household breakages. Supposing we’re out of something, I make it and then of course I make a lot more than I need so then one has a choice.
Having trained in pottery at the Burslem School of Art in Stoke-on-Trent in the 1930s, Bell set up a studio and a kiln at Charleston, in Sussex. His sculptural, painterly, art historical and teaching activities were underpinned by his continued commitment to ceramics. His rough painted mug and plates – which he associated with an artisan tradition – and more ambitious ceramic sculpture stood apart from contemporary canons. The former were considered too utilitarian, and the latter too conventionally figurative. This did not deter Bell from pursuing a prolific production into the 1980s that offered a crossover between the Omega Workshops and folk art.
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