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Rie, Luciefree

Austrian-born British, 20th century, female.

Born 16 March 1902, in Vienna; died 1 April 1995, in London.

Potter, ceramicist. Ceramics, British pottery, studio pottery.

Modernism.

Lucie Rie was the youngest of three children. Her father, Benjamin Gomperz, was a medical doctor who worked as a consultant to Sigmund Freud. In 1922, Rie studied pottery under Michael Powolny, the founder of the Wiener Keramik workshop, which became part of the Wiener Werkstätte in Vienna. She was also mentored by Josef Hoffmann at the Arts and Design School in Vienna, who would become an important influence on developing her own personal style. In 1925, Rie established a pottery studio in Vienna and took part in the Paris International Exhibition that year. She won the silver medal at the 1937 Paris International Exhibition, which also featured the debut of Pablo Picasso’s large 1937 canvas Guernica. Rie was Jewish and when the Nazis annexed Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938, she moved to London. She supported herself during World War II through the sales of her ceramic buttons and jewellery. She set up her studio within a small converted stable at 18 Albion Mews near London’s Hyde Park. Her ceramic button and jewellery business employed refugees from the war and established Rie’s signature brand within the couture fashion marketplace. Rie’s studio workshop is now preserved within the ceramics collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

In 1946, Rie became a mentor to Hans Coper, who was struggling to become a sculptor. Coper was hired by Rie to be her studio assistant even though he was inexperienced with making pottery at the time. Rie and Coper worked together in Rie’s studio and produced tea sets and cups and saucers. The professional relationship between Coper and Rie blossomed into a lifelong friendship until Coper passed away in 1981. Through Coper’s partnership with Rie, he became a well renowned ceramicist in his own right. In London, Rie socialised with a diverse contingent of artists, writers, and designers. She was close friends with the influential British ceramicist Bernard Leach and the Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake. Rie taught ceramics at Camberwell College of Arts in London from 1960 to 1972.

Rie’s well-known ceramic works are all functional objects such as buttons, bowls, pots, and other vessels. She developed a groundbreaking style, which blended functional craft with fine art and eschewed the earthy colours and shapes of traditional British pottery. Her work also contains some influences from Japanese pottery and design. She used a palette of bright Modernist colour and form to create objects that transition between being functional objects and works of art. In fact, Rie’s works seamlessly exist within modern kitchens and museums alike.

Group Exhibitions

1925, Paris International Exhibition, Paris

1937, Paris International Exhibition, Paris

1964, English Artist-Potters 1912–1960, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

1985, British Ceramics, Moravian Gallery, Brno (travelled to Museum of Applied Arts, Prague; and Hall of the Union of Slovak Artists, Bratislava)

1986, British Studio Pottery, Hall of the Union of Soviet Artists, Leningrad (travelled to All Russian Museum of Applied, Decorative and Folk Art, Moscow)

1990, Lucie Rie, Hans Coper and Their Pupils, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich

1992, Colours of the Earth, Sabah Art Gallery, Kota Kinabalu (travelled to Balai Seni Lukis Negara, Kuala Lumpur; Penang State Museum and Art Gallery, Penang; Dewan Tun Abdul Razak, Kuching; Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, Bengaluru; Lalit Kala Akademi, Madras; Jehangir Nicholson Museum of Modern Art, Bombay; Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Calcutta; and Bharat Kala Bhavan Faculty of Visual Arts, Benares Hindu University, Varanasi)

2000, Firing Imagination Ceramica Britanica, Espaco Cultural Dos Correios, Rio de Janeiro

2009, Classic and Contemporary Ceramics, Galerie Besson, London

2009, 3 by 1, Crafts Study Centre, Farnham

2010, My Yard, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London

2010–2011, Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

2012–2013, Shaping Modernity, 1880–1980, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

2013–2014, Designing Modern Women, 1890–1990, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

2017, Making Space: Women and Postwar Abstraction, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

2017, Shaping Ceramics: From Lucie Rie to Edmund de Waal, The Jewish Museum, London

2018, Dan Flavin, to Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, Master Potters, Vito Schnabel Gallery, St Moritz

Solo Exhibitions

1949, Lucie Rie, Berkeley Galleries, London

1951, Berkeley Galleries, London

1967, Lucie Rie, Bristol City Art Gallery, Bristol (travelled to Midland Group of Artists, Nottingham; and Arts Council Gallery, London)

1992, Lucie Rie, The Arts Council, London

1994, Lucie Rie/Hans Coper, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1981, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich

1988, Galerie Besson, London

1997, Lucie Rie and Hans Coper: Potters in Parallel, Barbican Art Gallery, London

1999, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna

2008, Musée de Céramique at Sèvres, Sèvres

2010, Lucie Rie, a Retrospective, Hagi Uragami Museum, Yamaguchi

2010, Lucie Rie, a Retrospective, MOA Museum of Art, Atami

2010, Lucie Rie, a Retrospective, Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art, Tochigi

2015, Lucie Rie: A New Zealand Connection, Dowes Art Museum, Lower Hutt

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Auckland (Auckland Mus.): Teapot (1950, porcelain); Coffee Set (c. 1950, stoneware); Jug (1950, ceramic); Jug (c. 1950–1960, stoneware); Bowl and Jug (1952, ceramic); Cup and Saucer (c. 1950s, porcelain); Bowl, Sugar (c. 1950, porcelain with sgraffito lines)

Belfast (Ulster Mus. of Northern Ireland): Vase (c. 1960s, stoneware); Pouring Vessel (Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, c. 1955, stoneware)

Kyoto (Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa MA): Bowl (c. 1970, stoneware, pitted white glaze)

London (Victoria and Albert Mus.): Button Mould (1941–1947, plaster); Button (1945–1946, stoneware with coloured glaze); Dish (ceramic and metal); Cover (ceramic); Jar (ceramic); Bottle (1967, stoneware with streaked and purple-brownish glaze); Bowl (glazed ceramic, clay, metal); Bracelet (1945–1946, stoneware, with pale glaze and gold lustre); Pot with Lid (1936, earthenware, brown and white pitted glaze, with unglazed burnished lid); Jug and Two Beakers (1950–1955, stoneware, with white and black glazes); Pot (c. 1926, earthenware, blue, orange, white, and brown splashes); Choker (1945–1946, stoneware, with pale glaze and gold lustre); Dish (1950, porcelain, with brown and transparent glaze); Vase (stoneware, pitted white and green glaze); Bowl (porcelain, brown manganese glaze with incised lines); Planter and Saucer (stoneware, pitted white and grey glaze flecked with brown)

Lower Hutt (Dowes AM): Vase (c. 1950s)

New York (Metropolitan MA): Bowl (c. 1968, porcelain); Vase (c. 1978, stoneware); Bowl (c. 1974–1975, porcelain); Vase (1979, stoneware); Bowl (c. 1971, porcelain); Bowl (c. 1976–1981, stoneware); Salad Bowl (c. 1960, porcelain); Bowl (c. 1982, porcelain); Bowl (c. 1975–1986, stoneware); Vase (c. 1967, stoneware); Vase (c. 1975, stoneware); Bowl (c. 1970, porcelain); Necklace (c. 1945, earthenware); Vase (c. 1981, porcelain)

New York (MoMA): Casserole (Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, c. 1948, glazed stoneware); Vase (Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, c. 1950, glazed stoneware); Teapot, Cream Pitcher, and Sugar Bowl (c. 1950, teapot: glazed stoneware and bamboo, pitcher and sugar bowl: glazed stoneware); Bowl (c. 1953, glazed porcelain); Vase (c. 1950, glazed stoneware); Footed Bowl (c. 1951, glazed porcelain); Bowl (1952–1954, glazed stoneware); Bowl (c. 1970, bronze glazed porcelain); Bowl (c. 1970, bronze glazed stoneware); Bowl (c. 1980, porcelain coated with manganese and copper carbonate glaze)

Norwich (Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts): Vase (1981, stoneware, white glaze with two bronze bands); Oval Bowl (stoneware); Plate (Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, c. 1955, stoneware); Bowl (Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, c. 1955, stoneware); Bottle (1976, porcelain, white glaze); Bottle (1975, porcelain, brown glaze); Cup (c. 1958, stoneware, brown glaze, sgraffito); Saucer (c. 1958, stoneware, brown glaze, sgraffito); White Vase with Conical Neck (c. 1965, porcelain); Vase with Flared Rim and Fluted Body (1980, stoneware); White Teacup (c. 1954, stoneware); Brown Teacup (ceramic); Blue Glazed Button in a Butterfly Shape (c. 1945–1947, glazed earthenware); Buckle Shaped Glazed Button (glazed earthenware); Square Gold Glazed Button with Ridges (glazed earthenware); Yellow Glazed Button with Depressed, Twisted Wire (glazed earthenware); Gold and White Flower Shaped Button (glazed earthenware); White Glazed Cylinder Shaped Button (glazed earthenware); Yellow, Gold and Lilac Glazed Flower Shaped Button (glazed earthenware); Conical Bowl (c. 1979, ceramic); Blue and White Jasperware Cups and Saucers for Wedgwood (1963, jasperware); Small Bowl (c. 1963, stoneware); Miniature Cup (c. 1958, stoneware, grey glaze); Bottle with Flared Rim (c. 1974, porcelain, brown glaze, sgrafitto); Cache-pot (c. 1965, stoneware, grey and white glaze); Miniature Dish (c. 1972, stoneware, black glaze); Coffee Set (1950, stoneware, black exterior glaze, white interior glaze); Miniature Oval Vase (c. 1975, stoneware, mixed clay)

Wellington (Mus. of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa): Teapot (c. 1958, ceramic, cane); Sugar Bowl (1960, ceramic); Milk Jug (1960, ceramic); Coffee Pot (1960, ceramic); Coffee Pot (c. 1950s, ceramic); Bowl (Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, c. mid-1950s, fine stoneware; glaze wiped thin to rim so that it is darker, electric firing)

York (AG): Bowl (c. 1950s, stoneware); Bowl (c. 1950s, stoneware); Bowl (c. 1950s, porcelain); Jar (c. 1960–1970, stoneware); Bowl (c. 1950, porcelain); Vase (c. 1970s, stoneware); Bowl (c. 1970s, porcelain); Vase (c. 1960s, porcelain); Vase (c. 1950s, porcelain); Bowl (c. 1950s, porcelain); Bowl (c. 1950s, porcelain); Vase (c. 1950s, stoneware); Vase (c. 1970s, stoneware); Bottle (c. 1950, porcelain); Bottle (c. 1950–1960, porcelain); Bowl (c. 1950s, porcelain); Teapot (c. 1950–1990s, earthenware and cane); Milk Jug (c. 1950–1990s, earthenware); Cream Jug (c. 1950–1990s, earthenware); Hot Water Jug (c. 1950–1990s, earthenware); Chalice (c. 1950s, porcelain with oxide glaze); Casserole Dish (c. 1960s, porcelain with iron oxide glaze)

Auction Records

Amsterdam, 1 Nov 2005: A Large Stoneware Bowl (1961, internal and external sgraffito leaf design repeated in blues and browns against a greenish brown background, 5½ × 11⅝ ins/14 × 27 cm) EUR 9,000

London, 4 May 2007: Bowl (c. 1980, porcelain, glazed with bronze bands and one red band to the well and underside, 8¾ ins/22.2 cm diameter) GBP 5,760

New York, 26 March 2008: A Glazed Stoneware Bottle (1966, stoneware, 11¾ ins/30 cm high) USD 8,125; A Porcelain Bottle (c. 1960, thinly coated with manganese, 9⅝ ins/24.5 cm high) USD 22,500; A Glazed Stoneware Vase (1966, 7⅞ ins/20 cm high) USD 9,375

New York, 14 Dec 2017: Pot with Oval Lip (c. 1972, stoneware with white pitted and flowing glaze) USD 5,000; Bowl (c. 1978, porcelain, gold manganese and blue glaze, sgraffito) USD 28,750

Bibliography

  • Houston, John (ed.): Lucie Rie: A Survey of Her Life and Work, Crafts Council, London, 1981.
  • Johnson, Stewart J.: Lucie Rie/Hans Coper: Masterworks by Two British Potters, exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1994.
  • Coattes, Margot (ed.): Lucie Rie and Hans Coper: Potters in Parallel, exhibition catalogue, Herbert Press Ltd, London, 1997.
  • Frankel, Cyril: Modern Pots: Hans Coper, Lucie Rie and Their Contemporaries, University of Anglia, Norwich, 2006.
  • Birks, Tony: Lucie Rie, Stenlake Publishing, Catrine, 2009.
  • Cooper, Emmanual: Lucie Rie: Modernist Potter, Paul Mellon Centre, London, 2012.