A comprehensive Asian art collection, including numerous Chinese ceramics, from the estate of an administrator in the Indian Civil Service is to be sold at John Nicholson’s in Surrey this month.
Maurice Collis started collecting Chinese ceramics when he was in Burma during the 1920s and ’30s, working within the 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.
This began his fascination with and research into collecting early Chinese ceramics, an interest that he maintained after returning to Britain where he became an active member of the Oriental Ceramic Society, 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, including the history of Siam and China, and about the struggle in the late Middle Ages between western countries for sea-power and trade in the east.
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 early in the 20th century. 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 noted biographies, including a book about 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, with the items below included.