Modern British & Irish Art

Dame Lucie Rie: A Passion for Pottery

By Robin Cawdron-Stewart

A t the end of last year London’s Jewish Museum opened a beautifully curated exhibition, Shaping Ceramics: From Lucie Rie to Edmund de Waal, celebrating the pivotal role that Jewish ceramicists played in transforming the field for British studio ceramics, influencing successive generations of ceramic artists working today. Now in its final fortnight, the exhibition celebrates the work of Hans Coper, Ruth Duckworth, Grete Marks and Lucie Rie, who together imported modernist ideals that challenged the prevailing styles of Bernard Leach and the St Ives school.

DAME LUCIE RIE, LARGE AND MEDIUM ‘OATMEAL’ GLAZED SQUEEZED BOWLS, 1950S, £1,200–1,800 AND £1,500–2,500 EACH.

In Vienna Rie worked with thrown earthenware, using simple and straightforward forms and developing bright and colourful glazes that would continue to dominate her work for the rest of her life.

A PAGE FROM RIE’S VIENNA-PERIOD GLAZING NOTEBOOK, 1920S-30S
© YVONNE MAYER/CRAFTS STUDY CENTRE, UNIVERSITY FOR THE CREATIVE ARTS

These pieces gained early international acclaim including at the 1937 Paris International Exhibition, marked with her early ‘L.R.G.Wien’ mark, and in our Made In Britain auction in London on 5 April we are delighted to be including rare examples of these early Viennese pieces alongside a host of paintings, prints, works on paper, photographs, design and British studio ceramics by many of Rie’s contemporaries.

LUCIE RIE OUTSIDE ALBION MEWS, CIRCA 1940S-50S
© YVONNE MAYER/CRAFTS STUDY CENTRE, UNIVERSITY FOR THE CREATIVE ARTS

Having established a name for herself as a potter in her home city of Vienna, like many others Rie fled growing Nazi influence and arrived in London in October 1938 - an emigre artist desperate to continue working. It was not long before she set up her pottery studio at Albion Mews in North London, which was to remain her home until her death in 1995.  

DAME LUCIE RIE, TEACUP & SAUCER, 1950S, £600–800.

Made In Britain, which celebrates the interdisciplinary nature of British arts and crafts, also includes later examples of Rie’s functional pieces, which were heavily indebted to her work from the 1930s, but were now bolder and more heavily thrown in stoneware and high-fired porcelain.

EARLY EXAMPLES OF LUCIE RIE’S TABLEWARE, PRODUCED IN VIENNA IN THE 1930S: LILAC BOWL, £800–1,200, TEA SET £2,500–3,500, ALONGSIDE A 1923 WORK BY WILLIAM STAITE MURRAY, ESTIMATED AT £400–600.

In Britain her works were sold in some of the most fashionable shops and department stores, and shipped across the globe to be sold in countries including the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Today Rie’s work is still celebrated all across the globe – from MoMA in New York to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum – but for a chance to see her pieces within the broader ceramic context in Britain, the Jewish Museum exhibition is a must-see show, with our Made In Britain sale offering a chance to get up close and personal with the works before they go under the hammer.

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