Lucie Rie (1902 – 1995) the Genius British Ceramicist

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Lucie Rie (1902 – 1995) was an Austrian-born British ceramicist. She was born in Vienna and active in Austria and Britain. Between 1922-26, she studied fine art, at Kunstgewerbeschule, Vienna, under Michael Powolny. The modern movement and contemporary sculpture influenced Lucie Rie. She emphasised exact and controlled forms rather than spontaneity and glazes rather than hand-painted or trailed decoration. She influenced a generation of British Potters both through her work and her teaching. (Atterbury, 1999)

Assortment of Button by Lucie Rie (V & A)
Assortment of Ceramic Buttons designed and made by Lucie Rie (V & A)

Early Career

She first became involved in pottery with Powolny and, 1926-38, was a successful potter in her studio in Vienna and active in the movement Neue Werkbund Osterreichs. She moved to Britain in 1938 as Hitler gained power. In 1939, she was settled in Albion Mews, London. In 1945, after wartime closure, she reopened Lucie Rie’s pottery and button-making workshop. Her unique handmade buttons were made to order, and she developed an extensive range of glazes to match customers’ fabrics. 

Porcelain bowl by Lucie Rie (The British Museum)
Porcelain bowl by Lucie Rie (The British Museum)

Albion Mews workshop

In 1946, German potter Hans Coper joined Rie in the Albion Mews workshop. She became known for her sophisticated domestic wares, including late-1950s coffee services. Her subtle green, yellow, and pastel pink glazes, often employing cross-hatched sgraffito decoration and rough white tin glaze applied to pots that were only fired once. She taught at the Camberwell School of Art in 1971. 

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Influence

Rie worked in vivid colours, brilliantly glazed magenta and peacock blue and gold. Her most famous works are vases, bottles, and bowls inspired by Japan and many other places. Other pieces, such as buttons that she left to her close friend, the Japanese designer Issey Miyake, and bowls, including her egg cup, she gave to publisher Susan Shaw.

Lucie Rie Footed Bowl c. 1951
Lucie Rie Footed Bowl c. 1951

Collaboration with Hans Coper

During and after World War II, she made couture dresses, designer buttons and jewellery to earn a living. She employed several fellow emigrants to assist her, and in 1946, Rie engaged the young Hans Coper to assist her in pressing the buttons.

Rie supported Coper’s ambitions, despite his lack of experience with ceramics and his desire to study sculpture. She introduced him to the potter Herbert Matthews and instructed him on the nuances of wheel-thrown pottery creation. Coper was rewarded with an invitation to become a studio collaborator with Rie. He stayed there until 1958, and they remained close companions until his passing. (Miller, 2012)

Together Rie and Copoer designed and manufactured Lucie Ri Pottery’s standard lines, which included tea and coffee services, cruet sets, and salad bowls. The wares were angular and thin-walled, with dark brown or white glazes and, sometimes, sgraffito – fine, scratched, linear decoration. They were sold in upmarket stores such as Heal’s in London. Both Rie and Coper pursued their individual work when they could.

Awards and Recognition

  • She was awarded a gold medal at the 1935 Brussels international exhibition.
  • Silver medal for work in the Austrian pavilion at the 1937 Paris ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques clans la Vie Moderne.’
  • As a student, she showed her first pots in 1923 at the Palais Stoclet, Brussels.
  • She participated in the 1925 Paris ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes,’
  • 1930 (IV) Monza ‘Esposizione Triennale delle Arti Decorative e Industriali Modeme,’
  • 1951 (IX), 1954 (X) Triennali di Milano,
  • 1959 (XX) ‘Ceramic International Exhibition’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York,
  • 1986 ‘Nine Potters’ exhibition at the Fischer Fine Art Gallery, London.
  • In 1949, she exhibited for the first time at the Berkeley Gallery London, 1950 and 1956, she shared an exhibition there with Coper.
  • Rohsska Konstslojdmuseet, Gothenburg, in 1955;
  • Boymans Museum, Rotterdam, in 1967; at the
  • Gemeentemuseum, Arnhem; Museum für Künste und Gewerbe, Hamburg, in 1971;
  • Fischer Fine Art gallery, London, in 1984.
  • Retrospectives of her work were mounted at the Arts Council Gallery, London, in 1967 and the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, in 1981, and at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
  • She received a CBE in 1981. 

Museum Collections

Sources

Atterbury, P., Batkin, M., Denker, E. (1999). Century Ceramics. United Kingdom: Miller’s.

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Miller, J. (2012, September 5). Miller’s 20th Century Design: The Definitive Illustrated Sourcebook. Mitchell Beazley.

Wikipedia contributors. (2020, December 31). Lucie Rie. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:14, January 10, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lucie_Rie&oldid=997526427

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