William Staite Murray

(1881—1962) potter and teacher of pottery

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(b London, 9 Sept 1881; d Umtali, South Rhodesia [now Zimbabwe], 20 Feb 1962). English potter. He attended evening classes in pottery at the Camberwell School of Art, London (c. 1909-12). About 1915-16 he joined Cuthbert Hamilton at the Yeoman Pottery in Kensington, London (closed 1920). After World War I he set up his own pottery at the family engineering firm in Rotherhithe in 1919, moving in 1924 to a new workshop in south-east London where he developed a high-firing, oil-burning kiln, which he patented in 1926. He made large, often wide-shouldered earthenware and stoneware pots and vases, freely painted with abstract designs (‘Wheel of Life’, 1937-9; London, V&A), which he regarded as art forms rather than functional pots. In the 1920s and 1930s he showed his highly priced pots in fine-art galleries with such painters as Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) and Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981) and Christopher Wood (1901-30). From 1926 he was head of the pottery department at the Royal College of Art, where he was an inspiring if eccentric teacher. In 1939 he settled at Odzi, in South Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where he embraced Buddhism and never potted again. He returned to England briefly in 1957 to prepare an exhibition of the last of his pre-war work at the Leicester Galleries, London (1958).

From The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Decorative Arts, Furniture, and Industrial Design.

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