Brian was brought up in Kent and was educated at Marlborough College and went up to Magdalen College, Oxford, but did not graduate.
His attention was directed to Oriental ceramics and Chinese art rather than studying for his degree, which had the benefit of securing for him within eight months the job that went on to be his life’s work – and within two years he was back in Oxford giving a lecture on his chosen subject.
In his youth he had been an amateur potter and some of his pots are still to be seen at his home in south-west France.
He joined the London Oriental art dealer Bluett & Sons in 1954, where he became a partner with Roger Bluett in 1964 and a director of the company. A talented photographer, he brought the firm’s photography in-house and was photographer for the firm until the early 1990s.
His interests in terms of Asian art were very wide-ranging, covering most aspects of Chinese art. In the later 1950s he developed the firm’s dealings with Japanese prints, organising a number of exhibitions, and was enthusiastic about the Islamic art that Bluetts had begun to sell.
His lecture, A Search for the Earliest Ming Style, published in the Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, Vol 45, 1981, represented a new approach to the subject that included views at that time contrary to the ideas of the Chinese who supported their claims by ‘archaeological evidence’.
Brian was a fine craftsman and was justifiably proud of the display he created for Bluetts’ loan exhibition of Islamic ceramics, The Gurgan Finds, held in 1976 to coincide with the Festival of Islam. He was also responsible for the reconstruction of Bluetts’ lower gallery in the mid-1980s.
Brian wrote many of the firm’s catalogues, including Early Chinese Ceramics from the Postan collection (1972), Dr Newton’s Zoo (1981) and Chinese Jades from the Mu-Fei Collection (1990). He was an enthusiastic collector who built up, with his mother, a fine collection of English Delftware which in the 1970s toured the US in an exhibition titled Fair as Chinese Dishes.
Brian and his mother also bred Old English mastiffs, the enormous dogs being transported to shows in his silver and black 1954 ‘R’-type Bentley. An excellent linguist, he translated two books from German: Oriental Lacquer by K Herberts and (with Susana Svoboda) Chinese cloisonné: The Pierre Uldry Collection.
In the early 1990s Brian went to live in the south-west of France with his partner, David Hiller, where they cultivated peonies and slightly unruly cats, and made beautiful furniture in both the English and Chinese tradition.
By Dominic Jellinek