News & Insights

Lucie Rie: Master Ceramicist

10th October 2018. By Diane Sinnott

Lucie Rie (1902-1995) is one of the most accomplished and celebrated studio potters. Known for her extraordinarily fine hand-thrown porcelain pots, bottles and bowls, Rie has become one of the most sought-after ceramicists of the 20th century.

Rie was born in Austria at the turn of the century. Having trained in pottery at the School of Art and Design in Vienna, she was beginning to build a reputation in the city as an accomplished potter during the 1930s. However, aged 36, Rie found herself in London, a Jewish émigré who fled from the Nazi’s rise to power in her homeland. Under difficult circumstances, Rie began making hand-made ceramic buttons for the couture industry. With rationing for traditional button materials and the requisitioning of button factories, Rie spotted a gap in the market and found a way of making a living.

Fellow potter and émigré Hans Coper began working for her, and together they produced tableware, such as tea and coffee services. Elegant, angular and modern, their wares soon found a following and began to be stocked in fashionable outlets such as Heals. Coper was to share a studio with Rie until 1958, and they remained friends until Coper’s death in 1981.

As her commercial success in domestic wares grew, Rie was able to return to making art pottery. Using porcelain (the most difficult of materials to throw), Rie created delicate, almost gravity defying pieces, experimenting with synthetic colours and glazes. Her work was not initially admired in Great Britain, being very different to the heavy earthen and stoneware studio pottery being produced in the country by the likes of Bernard Leach. She was told her walls were too thin and her pot ‘feet’ were too small – the very features so admired in her work today. However, her more European, minimalist style was appreciated on the Continent and her reputation began to grow. Soon she began to be appreciated at home too and would go on to achieve great success and acclaim during her long career.

Today, her wafer-thin pottery attracts a devoted following; large bowls and pieces with her distinctive yellow and blue glazes are particularly sought-after. Rie’s work commanded high prices in her lifetime, and today prices at auction have remained extremely buoyant. Regarded as perhaps the greatest ceramicist producing work on our shores, the lively market for Lucie Rie ceramics is set to continue as interest grows in both her work and 20th Century Design as a whole.


Modern Living: Art & Design – 20th October

Dame Lucie Rie DBE (1902-1995): A Footed Bowl with Flaring Rim, stoneware with an all over oatmeal glaze and manganese rim, impressed Artist's seal, 18.5cm diameter, 11.5cm high

Estimate: £2,000-3,000

Dame Lucie Rie DBE (1902-1995): A Beaker Vase, stoneware with an all over oatmeal glaze and manganese rim, impressed Artist's seal, 11.5cm high

Estimate: £700-1,000

Diane Sinnott

Diane Sinnott


20th Century Design Specialist, General Valuer

+ 44 (0) 1969 623780

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