Hans Coper (1920-1981) was a renowned British ceramicist who played a significant role in renewing ceramic art in England. Born in Chemnitz, Germany, Coper settled in Britain in 1939 and discovered pottery in 1946 at the London Albion Mews Pottery of Lucie Rie. This encounter led to a fruitful collaboration between the two artists. Asian techniques and models influenced Coper’s distinctive style in ceramics. Throughout his career, he exhibited his work worldwide, taught at esteemed institutions, and left an indelible mark on ceramic art.
Early Life and Influences
Hans Coper’s artistic journey began with his studies in textile engineering. However, his true passion for ceramics emerged when he encountered pottery at Lucie Rie’s London Albion Mews Pottery in 1946. Rie, a well-known ceramicist herself, became his collaborator and influenced his artistic development. Cooper drew inspiration from Asian techniques, models, and various artistic influences such as Alberto Giacometti and Constantin Brancusi’s sculptures, Cycladic statuary, and primitive art.
Establishing a Distinctive Style
Coper’s exploration of ceramics led him to develop a distinctive style characterized by his unique approach and craftsmanship. His ceramics often showcased intricate designs, refined forms, and meticulous attention to detail. His work demonstrated a harmonious blend of traditional ceramic techniques and innovative artistic expression, resulting in pieces that were both visually striking and technically accomplished.
Teaching and Contributions
Recognizing the importance of imparting his knowledge and passion for ceramic art, Hans Coper dedicated significant time to teaching. From 1961 to 1969, he taught at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, contributing to the renewal of ceramic art in England. 1966 he moved to London and continued teaching at the Royal College of Art until 1975. Coper’s teachings left a lasting impact on generations of aspiring ceramic artists, ensuring the continuation of his artistic legacy.
Exhibitions and Recognition
Hans Coper’s work received international acclaim, with his pieces exhibited worldwide. Starting from 1950 at the Berkeley Galleries in London, his collaborations with Lucie Rie were particularly well-received. Some notable exhibitions include the 1955 exhibition at Röhsska Konstslöjdmuseet in Gothenburg, the 1957 exhibition at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, the 1967 exhibition at the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam, and the 1972 exhibition at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg.
Coper’s work was also showcased at significant events, such as the 1951 London Festival of Britain and the 1954 Triennale di Milan, where he was awarded a gold medal. His artistry was recognized by institutions like the Victoria and Albert Museum, where he had several exhibitions, including a 1969 exhibition with Peter Collingwood. Furthermore, he had notable solo exhibitions, such as the 1956 show at Bonnier’s in New York, the 1980 retrospective at the Hetjens Museum in Düsseldorf, and the 1983-84 exhibitions at the Sainsbury Centre, Boymans-van Beuningen Museum, and Serpentine Gallery.
Legacy and Impact
Hans Coper’s contributions to ceramic art extended beyond his artistic achievements. His dedication to teaching and his innovative approach inspired a new generation of ceramic artists, shaping the future of the field. Today, his works can be found in prestigious collections worldwide, cherished for their timeless beauty and artistic significance.
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