The Ceramic Art of Grace Seccombe: A Celebration of Australian Identity

From whimsical kookaburras to intricately detailed koalas, the ceramic art of Grace Seccombe endures in its aesthetic appeal and value more than 60 years after her death in 1956. Her sculptures, mainly depicting Australian native animals, are held in premier galleries and collections and continue to realise healthy hammer prices at auction. While ceramic sculpture has struggled for artistic recognition beyond its appeal as simple decoration, Seccombe’s ability to delicately capture the spirit and character of her subjects has lifted them above the decorative and into the realm of fine art. Their enduring popularity and relevance speak to the strength of her artistic vision as collectors continue to respond to her works.

Above: A selection of Seccombe’s works recently listed in February 2024’s Collectables & Classics auction.

Born in 1880 in the pottery district of Staffordshire in the UK to a potter father, Seccombe followed her father into the profession until the family migrated to Sydney in 1902, where she studied drawing at Sydney Technical College before returning to her first love of ceramics, embracing its artistic, rather than functional, potential. Responding to an emerging sense of Australian identity in the wake of World War I, she was inspired to create art that celebrated the unique environment of Australia, rather than conforming to a European aesthetic tradition. Her resulting output, employing local clay and traditional techniques, is imbued with the rugged beauty and good-natured temperament of early 20th Century Australia.

Above: A selection of Seccombe’s works recently listed in February 2024’s Collectables & Classics auction.

Grace Seccombe’s works serve as a celebration of Australian national identity as it emerged from its colonial origins. Through her innovative use of Indigenous motifs and the flora and fauna of her adopted homeland, she pays homage to the distinctive beauty of the Australian landscape, capturing its essence in clay. At a time when industrialisation and automation were beginning to overshadow the value of craftsmanship, Seccombe’s commitment to traditional techniques helped to ensure the survival and continued appreciation handcrafted, one-of-a-kind ceramics. Abbeys Auctions was proud to present a number of Grace Seccombe’s works in February 2024’s Collectables & Classics auction These works constitute a single owner collection from the estate of her niece.

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