Sunday, 6 January 2019

Lucie Rie at York Art Gallery

Lucie Rie at York Art Gallery, York.

Lucie Rie, an Austrian-born British ceramicist is one of the most creative studio potters of this century who forged a new identity for studio ceramics. Her works, usually consisting of hand-thrown pots, bottles and bowl forms, are noteworthy for their Modernist forms and her use of bright colours. She made her pots minimal and spare in form, concentrating on deceptively simply-looking cylinders and rounded bowls. Dry textured glazes accentuated the strength of the shape, enhancing their austere, almost Spartan qualities. Her pots made no reference to the rustic tradition or industrial production but were a new expression in studio ceramics.

I have posted a fraction of this large exhibition, mainly because the ceramics were so tightly packed together that it was impossible to photograph them.

Lidded Jar, 1949


This stoneware bowl illustrates one of the most dramatic types of glaze Rie was able to achieve. The lava-like surface is the result of adding silicon carbide to the glaze. Firing causes the glaze to bubble and form craters, leaving a dramatic, frothy texture.


Elegant and sophisticated bottles were a form that Rie excelled at. Often made in two sections and then joined together, it took great skill to create the slender necks and delicately flared rims. Rie emphasised the forms by adding sgraffito decoration, bands of colourful or metallic glaze to punctuate the shape.

Jars, 1976

Lidded Pot, 1949


Rie continued to experiment with shapes and decorative techniques throughout her career. She referred to the effect created by the cross-hatched sgraffito decoration on this stoneware dish as 'knitted'.

Bowl, 1982


When Rie was studying at the School of Arts and Crafts in Vienna, she benefitted from training under Michael Powolny. Although his own work was often florid and over-decorated, he was an expert technician and instilled in his students meticulous knowledge of glaze and clay chemistry. This schooling enabled Rie to develop a mastery of glazes and to achieve startling colours.

Salad Bowl

Salad Bowl

Salad Bowl

Bowl, 1980

Ceramic buttons, 1945-55

Ceramic buttons, 1945-55

Ceramic buttons, 1945-55

During WWII, Rie worked at an optical instrument factory and afterwards found an outlet for her ceramic skill by designing and making a range of buttons and jewellery for Dimini Designs. The process enabled her to use all her technical expertise producing brightly coloured and textured glazes. The button moulds stood neatly stacked on shelves in her studio until her death. The arrival of Hans Coper, a young German refugee, as an assistant to help make the buttons, was the start of a creative partnership.

 Furniture handles made as prototypes for Heal's, 1950-1951


  1. We were there today! Such a lovely exhibition; an opportunity to see so much of her lovely pieces, and Hans Coper's too. I also particularly loved a Claire Curneen figure, the name of which I have forgotten. Must look it up. The only disappointment was the closure of the cafe. However we enjoyed a hot sandwich at Croque Monsieur in the Roman Wall across the road.

    1. How lovely! It's such a great gallery for ceramics, but I did find it very frustrating, as there is so much in such a small space. But, I must not complain - we need more galleries like this one. We had a delicious lunch at the café, a pity it was closed for you. I also liked the ceramics shop: a great, varied selection.

      I hope you continue having a good time in York, Olga, it's such a great town.

    2. I just looked up Claire Curneen on the internet - such amazing work! We missed her figure at York, and I wonder, how could we have? I went through the galleries twice, and did not see it and it's not something I would have missed. Maybe it was not exhibited when we went? I don't know. A pity.

    3. The Claire Curneen was Portent: black figure. The bits sticking out of the figure have beautiful ends of white and blue glaze. It was on the top shelf of a display cabinet behind the 'bookcase' containing Rie and Coper pots, up towards the shop end of the gallery.

      The cafe has gone bust - only just in December apparently.

      I saw even more Rie and many more Coper pieces at the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts in Norwich today. We only visited York for the Rie.

  2. Is the exhibition appearing anywhere else in 2019?