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  • Jane Messenger


Lucie Rie is regarded as one of the leading international ceramicists of the twentieth century. The rich variety of her sculptured forms and her introduction of previously unseen glazes altered the course of Britain’s rustic ceramic tradition.

Rie, whose father Benjamin Gomperz worked as a consultant to Sigmund Freud, studied pottery under Michael Powolny, the founder of the Wiener Keramik workshop (later part of the Wiener Werkstätte) in Vienna. She was also mentored by Josef Hoffmann at the Arts and Design School; whose progressive design approach remained a constant influence throughout her career.

When Hoffman designed the Austrian Pavilion for the 1937 World Exhibition Paris, he built a glass corridor to exhibit 70 of Rie’s pots, for which she won a silver medal. Rie used the opportunity to travel to Paris and then London, where she immigrated the following year after Austria was annexed by the Nazis.

The War years provided little opportunity for Rie to work with pottery and her neo-classical aesthetic, which was informed by modernist ideals, was out of step with rustic British traditions. Thus, she began her London career by making buttons, developing a profile within the fashion industry that led to a collaboration with Issey Miyake in 1989.

The 1950s and 60s represented a creative flowering for Rie, which was met with critical and commercial success. A bold variation in form appeared in her practice, conscious of how the silhouette cut through space. The footed bowl, Rie’s most celebrated form as in the example Footed Pink Bowl with Bronzed Rim, was also developed during this period.

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.

The delicate form and exquisite glazed finish of Footed Pink Bowl with Bronzed Rim distinguish it as a masterpiece. The sgraffito (inlay design of radiating lines, incised using a sharp needle) is testament to Rie’s painstaking attention to detail. Excellence is also evident in her use of multiple colourants. The combination of watermelon pink with turquoise and golden manganese banding, separated by a fine ribbon of unglazed white porcelain, in Footed Pink Bowl with Bronzed Rim is exceptional.

LUCIE RIE (Austria/Britain 1902 - 1995) Footed Pink Bowl with Bronzed Rim, c. 1980 with a watermelon glaze, turquoise and golden manganese banding, sgraffito design, and a bronzed rim and inner well, signed, impressed with artist's seal on the underside, diameter 21 cm, estimate: $150,000-$200,000 (Lot 279, The Collector's Auction, Leonard Joel, Sydney, 07 Dec 2020)

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