Léon Pointu

Blue and gold enamelled cha-ire vase – Léon Pointu

Léon Pointu

Small « tea dust » Stoneware vase

Date : c. 1930-1935

Dimensions : H : 8,6 cm ; Dia : 8 cm

place of production: Reims

Material : Grès à couverte bleue et émaux dorés

Condition : Good condition, just a few light scratches


of work


This small stoneware vase by Léon Pointu is inspired by a vase used during the chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony: the cha-ire, a small “tea dust” vase used to hold thick tea instead of the natsume, which is a lacquered wooden box. It has an ovoid shape with a light, flowing shoulder that gives way to a tapering lip. This vase is reminiscent of the katatsuki shape. The body and outer part of the vase are covered in a lapis lazuli blue glaze dotted with clouds and gold-enamelled drips, layered towards the brightest gold. The underlying gold layer forms ocellated patches of slightly burnished gold that enhance the brighter glazes. Under the foot, the vase is signed Pointu with a handwritten incision. The signature and decoration of the vase date it from the 1930-35 period in the artist’s work.
This work was produced in Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye in the Nièvre region, a centre of stoneware production since the 14th century, mainly for everyday pottery. The quality of its clays made this production centre famous from the 18th century onwards. At the end of the 19th century, Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye welcomed the sculptor Jean Carriès who, captivated by the beauty of Japanese stoneware, decided to devote himself to it and settled in Saint-Amand. A number of potters, including Théo Perrot, Eugène Lion and the Pointu family, father and son, settled there to form the Carriès school, working in Japanese stoneware while integrating their naturalistic and symbolist specificities with the decorative vocabulary of Art Nouveau and the nascent Art Deco movement.
The characteristic feature of these stoneware pieces is their robustness and impermeability, without even being covered, which is due to the vitrification of a clay with a high silica content fired at 1200-1300°C. These stoneware pieces are inspired by Chinese stoneware from the 10th century Song period, the most famous of which are celadons, a technique that spread to Japan with the rise of the tea ceremony. Called Qingci green porcelain in China, glazed stoneware was highly regarded by artists of the late 19th century, such as Carriès, who saw it as “the male of porcelain”.

The stoneware produced by the workshops of Jean Pointu and then Léon Pointu is special in that the clay is carefully selected. It is a very pure, very white clay prepared using a very exacting process developed by Jean Pointu, Léon’s father. The entire process is mastered, and this is what distinguishes the art of Jean and Léon Pointu from that of the rest of the Carriès school, which seeks a certain creative fantasy while leaving some room for randomness. Jean and Léon Pointu cultivated a perfect mastery of curvaceous, pure shapes that, while reminiscent of Japanese forms, also made the transition to the more modern flamed stoneware of the 30s and 40s through their decoration.
Here, the lapis lazuli blue decoration, dotted with ethereal clouds of burnished gold topped with bright gold drips, is perfectly mastered. It is inspired by the work of Lucien Brisdoux, who lived not far from Bonny-sur-Loire, with whom Léon Pointu had worked, and who owned the Poterie-Neuve in Saint-Amand, which was the Pointu workshop between 1906 and 1916. Brisdoux was a specialist in glazes, particularly metal oxides, and greatly influenced turn-of-the-century potters such as Pointu and Raoul Lachenal, with whom he worked. The technique used here was developed by Lucien Brisdoux. It consists of a meticulous application of ceramic gold onto which creosote, an oil extracted from tar, is sprayed to ensure perfect control and preservation of the glazes.

Vase Cha-ire de l'epoque edo vase à poussière de thé du Smithsonian museum
Cha-ire pot à poussière de thé, Japon, ère edo 1625-1650 Smithsonian museum - Washington D.C.


Léon Pointu

Fontainebleau (France) 1879 - Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye (France) 1942

Léon Pointu was born in Fontainebleau in 1879, where his father Jean Pointu had a ceramics factory. So it was in an environment entirely dedicated to ceramic production that he grew up and trained with his father. In 1906, Pointu gave up industrial ceramics production and moved to Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye, attracted by the artistic abundance that had reigned there since Jean Carriès had set up shop there, and following in the footsteps of many potters following his example. The Japanese influence is embodied in his work through the shapes and decorations that recall the aesthetics of chanoyu, the tea ceremony. The demand for Japanese simplicity marks the work of Jean Pointu, who nonetheless differs from the potters of the Carriès school in his desire to master the forms and the process. He was an experienced and demanding practitioner when he arrived in Saint-Amand at the age of 63, and he left nothing to chance. He chose his clay with care, as did his workers, turners and anseurs, who had worked with the greatest. Jean Pointu’s art is characterised by the superimposition of layers of matt enamel that make the glaze vibrate on the surface of vases with fluid shapes that reveal a great concern for perfection.

Léon Pointu trained with his father and became his assistant after completing his military service. Although his art did not stand out during his father’s period of activity, it began to take on a character of its own in 1921 when his father retired, and even more so after his death in 1925. Shapes grew larger, colours became more assertive and genuine novelties emerged in Léon Pointu’s art, such as waterfalls that dripped thickly from the shoulder and became thicker, even imitating snakeskin. In the 1930s, influenced by Lucien Brisdoux, Léon Pointu gave his vases reticulated or ocellated motifs of clouds and perfectly controlled gold or platinum drips on dark or bluish backgrounds. However, his desire to master his father’s art kept him close to him, as he carefully selected his earthenware and enamels, which he had brought in from the Hospied company in Golfe-Juan, which worked closely with the Massier family.
Léon Pointu dedicated an exhibition to his father at the 1928 Salon and died in 1942. His production, which was continued by his wife and son, came to a halt in 1947 when his workshop was transformed by his son Michel Pointu into an industrial tableware company.

the work

in its context

Léon Pointu’s ceramics are part of the Carriès school, which followed Jean Carriès to Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye, a centre of stoneware production since the Middle Ages.
Its founder, Jean Carriès (1855-1894), chose Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye for the quality of its clay and its potters, with whom he learned the stoneware trade. A gifted sculptor and renowned and triumphant portraitist of Paris in the 1870s and 80s, he decided to break away from sculpture, despite being at the height of his powers, in 1878 when he visited the Paris Universal Exhibition after attending a tea ceremony. Captivated by the beauty, purity and spiritual depth of Japanese stoneware, he decided to devote his life to stoneware, the “male of porcelain”. The presentation of Japanese collections such as that of Emile Guimet at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1878 did much to spread the Japanese aesthetic in French art, particularly in the decorative arts such as ceramics. Codified in the 16th century by Sen no Rikyu, the tea ceremony encapsulates the essence of a ritualised Japanese aesthetic in search of perfection, which fascinated artists at the end of the 19th century through its relationship with nature and its acceptance of nature’s intervention in artistic creation.

Vase bouteille en grès de Jean Carriès, maître du céramiste art déco Léon Pointu
Jean Carriès - vase bouteille, Cleveland museum of arts

Carriès added symbolist references to nature in the creation of a fantastic bestiary in stoneware, while Jean Pointu was more interested in the evocative power of superimposed matt enamels, as in his creation of a hare fur glaze of great suavity. The use of gold, coulures and matte enamels was of great importance in the creation of an Art Nouveau and then Art Deco aesthetic within the decorative arts. But the influence of Japan was also decisive in the conception of an artist-craftsman and total art as it emerged at the turn of the century.


P. Monjaret & M. Ducret, <em>L’école de Carriès, l’art céramique à Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye 1888-1940</em>, Paris, Les éditions de l’amateur, 1997




  • Vase en grès émaillé doré – Jean Pointu, Musée d’Orsay – Paris voir l’oeuvre
  • Boîte en grès – Léon Pointu, Kunstmuseum Den Haag – La Hague voir l’oeuvre

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