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Le Grand, Henricus Alexander Theodorus (Henri) (1921–1978)

by Christopher Menz

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Henricus Alexander Theodorus (Henri) Le Grand (1921-1978), potter and teacher, was born on 10 May l921 at Zevenaar, the Netherlands, son of French-Dutch parents Petrus Egidius Hubertus Le Grand, labourer, and his wife Elisabetha Antoinetta, née van Haren. After studying (1938-42) art and ceramics at the Instituut voor Kunstnijverheidsonderwijs te Amsterdam, Henri gained practical experience with the potter Emile Regout at Maastricht and in the Goedewagen factory at Gouda. He also worked as a sculptor, and his early interest in sculptural form continued to influence his pots throughout his career. Le Grand became a member of the Dutch Guild of Potters and began to use the seal which appears on some of his work. On 11 May 1944 at Amsterdam he married Hendrika Engelina Rademaker; they were to have five children before being divorced.

Emigrating from the Netherlands in 1950, the Le Grands initially settled in Sydney. Henri took a number of jobs until 1954 when he was appointed to the staff of East Sydney Technical College. In the following year he was transferred to the Canberra Technical College as part-time ceramics teacher. He was naturalized in 1955. By 1961 he was chief art teacher at the college. A capable and efficient teacher, he also designed a kick-wheel, suitable for children, which was produced commercially.

Le Grand had been trained in the tradition of well-designed, functional, high-fired stoneware; he disliked casting and the type of decoration which relies on applied appendages and bright glazes for its effect. Placing emphasis on sure, firm shapes, achieved by hand-building or throwing on a wheel, he was admired for his restrained use of glaze for decoration and for his simple, strong and elegantly shaped pots. From the mid-1960s his work showed increasing differentiation between purely functional ware and art pots, and he also experimented with surface decoration.

In addition, Le Grand liked to produce his own clay bodies and used clay from Black Mountain, Canberra—sometimes mixed with commercial bases and other ingredients—to produce a medium for students' work. His use of local clays and minerals, and of native timbers for firing, interested critics of his own work. He experimented with clays and minerals found near Yass, New South Wales, and even brought clay from the Northern Territory. In 1956 his pots were included in the Fine Arts Exhibition of the Melbourne Olympic Arts Festival. Thenceforward he exhibited extensively. Reviews of his work were generally favourable.

On 23 February 1968, at Canberra Community Hospital, Le Grand married Jean Margaret Bastin, née Andrews, a library officer and a divorcee. Retiring in November due to poor health, he lost interest in pottery, partly due to the physical demands of the medium, and turned to restoring vintage cars. In 1969 he was appointed M.B.E. for services to the arts. That year a retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Canberra Theatre Gallery. Survived by his wife, and by the three sons and two daughters of his first marriage, Le Grand died of myocardial infarction on 29 November 1978 at Canberra Hospital and was cremated with Anglican rites. His work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, and other public collections.

Select Bibliography

  • Retrospective Exhibition of the Pottery of Henri Le Grand, exhibition catalogue (Canb, 1969)
  • C. Menz, 'Henri Le Grand—Potter and Teacher', Pottery in Australia, 27, Aug 1988, p 27
  • Territorial, 9 Mar 1961
  • Canberra Times, 25 Nov 1966, 23 May 1969
  • National Gallery of Australia files.

Citation details

Christopher Menz, 'Le Grand, Henricus Alexander Theodorus (Henri) (1921–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/le-grand-henricus-alexander-theodorus-henri-10810/text19175, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 April 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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