James Tower 1919-1988

Ceramicist, painter and sculptor, born in Kent.

 

Tower left home at 17 and decided to travel the world, eventually making his way to the South Seas. On his return, he studied painting at the Royal Academy (1938-1940), where he won the Gold Medal for Painting in 1939. During the Second World War he was enrolled in service, but returned to art in 1946, enrolling at the Slade School of Art. Here he was introduced to early English slipware and subsequently, became fascinated with ceramics. After graduating he took classes, in 1948, under William Newland at the London Institute.

 

A year later he was invited to set up a ceramics course at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham. Corsham provided a diverse, artistic environment, with artists such as Terry Frost, Kenneth Armitage, William Scott and Peter Lanyon all working there. It provided the ideal environment for Tower to develop his unique style, distinct from the teachings of Bernard Leach and traditional pottery. The organic forms and painterly surfaces of his flattened bottles and disc like vases, evoke notions of nature, referencing foliage, water and the landscape.

 

In December 1951, Gimpel Fils, London, gave Tower his first exhibition and in 1966 he became the Head of Fine Art at Brighton College of Art, where he set up a sculpture course and developed some sculptures in red clay. Tower often destroyed many works that did not satisfy him and as a result his oeuvre is relatively small.