John Maltby (British, 1936-2020), Highly Collectable, Manmade Mythology

John Maltby (British, 1936-2020), Highly Collectable, Manmade Mythology

11th October 2023

John Maltby (British, 1936-2020), Highly Collectable, Manmade Mythology

This beautiful John Maltby (British, 1936-2020) ceramic sculpture was recently offered in our regular Antiques, Interiors & Collectables auction. The unique work, signed by the artist, eventually sold for £390 (before buyers’ premium).

John Maltby Griffin's Auctioneers (1)
John Maltby, The Offering, offered at Griffin's Auctioneers

We love to see items like this at Griffin’s, so here is a spotlight on the artist and his work. John Maltby (pictured below) was a ceramic artist whose work was inspired by the English landscape, the sea, architecture, and music.

Born in Cleethorpes, Maltby studied art at Leicester College of Art, specialising in Sculpture. He continued his sculptural learning at Goldsmiths College in South London. After a period of teaching art at a small private boys' school at Caterham in Surrey, Maltby visited potter Bernard Leach after reading Leach's 'A Potter's book'. He would ultimately work for Leach's son David as an apprentice for two years before starting his own pottery studio in Stoneshill in 1964.

John Maltby King
John Maltby, King

As his career progressed he adopted more metaphorical figures, mad kings, brave warrior sailors, the tigers, owls, women looking and waiting, and abstracted forms - taken from his lived experiences. He left behind the earlier bright enamels he once used, preferring a monochromatic palette for his smaller stoneware sculptures.

John Maltby Figures
John Maltby, Figural group

In 1996, John underwent severe heart surgery, this left him too weak to use the large slabs of clay he had consistently used throughout his pottery career. This major upheaval in his practice, led to a distinct stylistic change, as he drifted away from the functional wares influenced by the Anglo-Oriental tradition. Labour intensive work transformed into intricately led modelling, and his fingers became the most significant tool in the construction process. It marked his ‘playing about’ era, responsive fingers turned small figurative designs. He grew into this outlook and larger more evocative figures became symbolic of his new artistic outlook. His love of storytelling and folk tales is evident in many of these wall-reliefs and composite pieces featuring archetypal figures often associated with myth and legend.

You can see this methodology in the seated Mother and Child figure offered in our recent sale.

Having rejected a more commercial outlook, Maltby insisted his work should belong to everyone and hence a focus on smaller more affordable pieces became apparent. This means that is work is often sold through auction and is highly desirable to collectors worldwide.

John Maltby Bird
John Maltby, Bird sculpture

Maltby’s work has been exhibited worldwide and represented in many public collections – including the Victoria and Albert Museum.

John Maltby
John Maltby in his pottery studio

If you have a John Maltby artwork that you are looking to sell or you are looking to consign any ceramic art to auction, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01926 505012 or at

Patrick Collyer

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