These days it is very rare for a great Chinese art collection to come to the market. So many of the great collectors are, alas, deceased and collectors today, unless they have very deep pockets, are somewhat restricted in their ability to build great collections.
But a very good Asian art collection, including numerous Chinese ceramics, from the estate of an administrator in the Indian Civil Service is to be sold at in Surrey in ten days time at the Fernhurst rooms of John Nicholson’s.
Maurice Collis started collecting Chinese ceramics when he was in Burma during the 1920s and ’30s, working within what was, in those days, the very great British Empire. His collection started when a gold miner brought him objects discovered near the old city of Tenasserim, not far from where Collis was based in Mergui, in a part of Burma bounded on two sides by Siam. he would go on to write many books about the region.
This began his fascination with and research into collecting Chinese ceramics, an interest that he maintained after returning to Britain where he became an active member of the Oriental Ceramic Society, eagerly contributing articles and documenting his research and discoveries.
Following his retirement in 1936 Collis began his career as a writer. He wrote on south east Asia, China and various historical subjects. He had become very involved with historical research while still in Burma, and in 1941 he published ‘The Great Within’, about Chinese life in the era of the Ming dynasty through to the
overthrow of the Manchu dynasty. Another book, ‘Foreign Mud’, was about the opium trade and the Anglo-Chinese war. In ‘The First Holy One’, Collis wrote about Confucius and the significance of his doctrines to the Chinese people.
Collis also wrote several significant biographies, including one on Stamford Raffles, a biography of Lady Astor, and a major biography of the painter, Stanley Spencer. He was also an author of plays, poems, and an extensive writer on art and artists for publications and catalogues. ‘The Journey Up’, a volume of his memoirs, was published in 1970.
The Maurice Collis collection sale takes place on April 26th at John Nicholson’s. Unconnected Oriental ceramics will be sold after the main event.