Collecting Articles and Features

The Studio Pottery of Lucie Rie

The Studio Pottery of Lucie Rie – Lucie Rie was a British-Austrian potter and one of the most influential ceramic artists of the 20th century. She was born in Vienna in 1902 and moved to London in 1938. After World War II, she established herself as a leading figure in the British studio pottery movement. She worked as an artist until her death in 1995. Rie’s work has been exhibited in major museums all over the world, including the Tate Gallery in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Dame Lucie Rie Footed bowl circa 1980 porcelain with a pink glaze turquoise banding sgraffito design and a bronzed rim and inner well
Dame Lucie Rie Footed bowl circa 1980 porcelain with a pink glaze, turquoise banding, sgraffito design and a bronzed rim and inner well. Sold for £46,000 at Lyon & Turnbull, April 2022.

Rie’s elegant, minimalist style was greatly influenced by modernist movements such as Bauhaus and De Stijl. Rie’s pots are instantly recognizable for their simple forms and are characterized by clean lines, simple forms, and muted colors.  And yet, despite their simplicity, they are also incredibly complex and unique.

Lucie Rie footed bowl sells for 180000 dollars
Phillips New York sold a Lucie Rie footed bowl for $180,000 (£136,800) in July 2020

Her work has rapidly increased in value over the last decade. Most of us will no longer be able to afford one of her pots, but there still might be some undiscovered works to be found. Phillips New York sold a footed bowl for $180,000 (£136,800) in July 2020. Collectors may still be able to afford her buttons which she designed in glass and ceramic.

Rie’s Early Life and Work

Lucie Rie was born Lucie Gomperz in Vienna, Austria on March 16, 1902. Lucie showed an early interest in art and studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule, or School of Arts and Crafts when she was 18 years old. She studied studied pottery under Michael Powolny, the founder of the Wiener Keramik workshop (later part of the Wiener Werkstätte) in Vienna, and was also mentored by under Josef Hoffmann, an avant-garde architect and designer who was a leading figure in the Viennese art scene. Hoffmann’s modernist principles had a profound impact on Rie’s work. In 1924, she began working for Wiener Werksstatten (Vienna Workshops), a company that produced handmade objects using traditional craft techniques and in 1925 she opened her own workshop.

She would exhibit and win prizes at the Brussels International Exposition in 1935, the Milan Triennial in 1936, and the Paris International Exposition in 1937 where she displayed 70 pots as part of the Hoffman designed the Austrian Pavilion.

In 1938, Rie fled Austria for London to escape the Nazi occupation. Around this time she split from Hans Rie (whom she had married in Vienna in 1926) and her marriage was dissolved in 1940. During and after the war, to make ends meet, she made ceramic buttons and jewellery and employed Hans Coper to help her fire her buttons and jewellery. Hans Coper was to study under Heber Mathews as well as learning from Lucie. They would exhibit together and Hans Coper would become a partner at the pottery. He remained their until 1958.

Lucie Rie buttons have become very collectable and also gave her another avenue of sales in the fashion industry.

Interest in Rie’s buttons was rekindled in 1984 when Issey Miyake met Rie. She gave him a large collection of her unused buttons which he used as the basis of 1989 Autumn/Winter Collection. Another avid collector of Rie’s buttons was couturier and collector Anthony Shaw. Two outfits designed by Shaw for gallerist Anita Besson in 1992 and adorned with Rie’s buttons have recently been added to the exhibition.

Lucie Rie for Bimini Eight pressed glass buttons seven with Bimini brass backs impressed flowerpot mark
Lucie Rie for Bimini Eight pressed glass buttons seven with Bimini brass backs impressed flowerpot mark. Provenance: Lucie Rie confirmed verbally to the vendor’s mother that she had designed and pressed these buttons. Before the war the Bimini workshops in Vienna had designed and made blown glass and furniture. Fritz Lampl, one of the trade partners, moved to London, became a button-maker to the fashion trade, and taught a number of other refugees, including Lucie Rie, to press glass buttons.. Sold for £420 at Mallams, May 2016.

After the war ended, Rie began experimenting with new glazes and firing techniques. Rie’s work was greatly influenced by Japanese aesthetics. In particular, she was inspired by the work of Shoji Hamada and Kanjiro Kawa. She also started producing stoneware pots decorated with vivid abstract patterns.

In 1951, Rie participated in “Objects for Use: Handmade by Craftsmen,” an exhibition organized by lived-in modernist architect Robert Adamson at the Smallest Gallery in Mayfair, London. The show was a huge success and brought Rie widespread recognition. Over the next few years, she exhibited her work extensively both in Britain and abroad. In 1955, she was awarded the Parallel Award at the São Paulo Biennale.” In 1962, Rie became one of the first artists to be appointed as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

The rich variety of Rie’s creativity was further expressed through her application of previously unseen glazes – vivid yellows, pinks, greens and blues. The 60s and 70s were a particularly exciting period of colour experimentation and development. She painted the glazes directly onto the wet clay before completing the work with a single firing, with the permutations enhancing the possibilities for surface and colour. (Messenger)

Lucie Rie marks – Lucie Rie’s Vienna Period designs are normally painted to base L. R. G. with the word WIEN below. The L. R. G. refers to her initials and maiden name Lucie Rie Gomperz. Her later works are embossed to base with her famous LR motif.

 

The Lucie Rie Footed Bowl

One of Lucie Rie’s most iconic pieces is the turned footed bowl. These were hand-thrown vessels of simplified forms featuring sgraffito surfaces, and a wide variety of colorful glazes with many featuring manganese rims or bands.

Rie continued to produce ceramics until her retirement in 1987. She died on April 21st 1995 at her home in London at the age of 92. Today, Lucie Rie is considered one of the most influential ceramic artists of the 20th century. Her work can be found in major museums all over the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The British Museum in London, and The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.”

Related
Lucie Rie masterwork to be auctioned by Jane Messenger
Lucie Rie Ceramics And Buttons At York Art Gallery feature from The Decorative Arts Society