Dame Lucie Rie (Austria & England 1902-1995); A most unusual cut-sided bowl; of porcelaineous stoneware with golden bronze glaze and terracotta well and foot-well, each also with black ring; the recessed foot-well with the artist's impressed LR seal mark; 21.5cm (8.5ins) long x 14.5cm (5.75ins) wide x 7cm (2.75ins) high
PROVENANCE: Originally a gift from the artist to a family in Wales, then purchased at auction (auction house unknown) by the previous owners (apparently also authenticated by Tony Birks-Hay at this time).
We sent high-resolution images of this bowl to Gallerie Besson in London who very kindly gave their opinion that it is an authentic and most unusual piece. Although cut-rimmed bowls by Lucie Rie are known, they had not seen any before that were cut to this extent. They suggested that the slight flattening to one side of the foot (see condition report below) may indicate the bowl toppled over when being thrown, damaging the rim, which led her to cut the sides in this way.
CONDITION: There is a 3cm (1.25in) long firing crack to the rim. This is original and not post-production damage and there has not been any later attempt at restoration (Galerie Besson were also of this opinion). There is slight flattening to one side of the foot, perhaps indicating that the bowl toppled over when being thrown (see above). Otherwise the bowl is in good original condition, with no post-production damage or restoration.
BIOGRAPHY: Lucie (pronounced "Lutzie") Rie was born Luzie Gomperz in Vienna, Austria, the youngest child of Benjamin Gomperz, a medical doctor who was a consultant to Sigmund Freud. She studied pottery under Michael Powolny at the Kunstgewerbeschule, the art school associated with the Wiener Werkstätte (the "Vienna Workshops), a craft workshop. She set up her first studio in Vienna in 1925. She exhibited at her first International Exhibition that year, in Paris.
In 1937 she won a silver medal at the Paris International Exhibition (the same exhibition for which Pablo Picasso painted Guernica), and in 1938 fled Nazi Austria and emigrated to England, where she settled in London. Around this time she separated from Hans Rie, a businessman whom she had married in Vienna. For a time she provided accommodation to another Austrian emigré, the Austrian physicist, Erwin Schrödinger. During and after the war, to make ends meet, she made ceramic buttons and jewellery, some of which can be seen displayed at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.
In 1946 she hired Hans Coper, a young man with no experience in ceramics, to help her fire the buttons. Although Coper was interested in learning sculpture, she sent him to a potter named Heber Matthews, who quickly taught him how to make pots on the wheel. Rie and Coper exhibited together only two years later, in 1948. He quickly became a partner in her studio, where he worked until 1958. Their friendship lasted until he died in 1981. Her small studio was at 18 Albion Mews, a former narrow street of converted stables located just meters from Hyde Park. She would invite just about anyone in for tea as late as the 1980s. Visitors who had seen photos of her studio taken in the 1940s would be amazed that every piece of furniture and pottery was in exactly the same place 40 years later.
Because of her close collaboration with Coper, and perhaps because they were both pre-war immigrants from German-speaking countries, her pottery is often associated with Coper's, but while his work tended to be sculptural and abstract, her's remained predominantly functional. Her pottery was also very different from that of Bernard Leach, a dominant figure in British studio pottery from the 1920s to the 1970s. Unlike his more rustic, Japanese-influenced pottery, her work has been described as cosmopolitan and architectural. Her pottery is displayed in collections around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She stopped making pottery in 1990, when she suffered the first of a series of strokes. She died at home on April 1, 1995, aged 93.
In 1981, Lucie Rie was made a CBE and in 1991, aged 89, she was appointed a DBE.
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