Lucie Rie

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Dame Lucie Rie, DBE (16 March 1902 – 1 April 1995)[1] was an Austrian-born British studio potter.

Thrown vase by Lucie Rie

Early life[edit]

Lucie (pronounced "Lootzie") Rie was born as Lucie Gomperz[2] in Vienna, Lower Austria, Austria-Hungary the youngest child of Benjamin Gomperz, a Jewish medical doctor who was a consultant to Sigmund Freud. She had two brothers, Paul and Teddy. Paul was killed at the Italian front in 1917.

She studied pottery under Michael Powolny at the Vienna Kunstgewerbeschule, a school of arts and crafts associated with the Wiener Werkstätte (the "Vienna Workshops").


Lucie Rie's workshop, as exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

She set up her first studio in Vienna in 1925 and exhibited the same year at the Paris International Exhibition.

In 1937, she won a silver medal at the Paris International Exhibition (the exhibition for which Pablo Picasso painted Guernica).

In 1938, she 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 émigré, the physicist Erwin Schrödinger. During and after the war, to make ends meet, she made ceramic buttons and jewellery, some of which are displayed at London's Victoria and Albert Museum and as part of the Lisa Sainsbury Collection at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich.

In 1946, she hired Hans Coper,[3] 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 Mathews, who taught him how to make pots on the wheel. Rie and Coper exhibited together in 1948. Coper became a partner in Rie's studio, where he remained until 1958.[4] Their friendship lasted until Coper's death in 1981.


Rie's small studio was at 18 Albion Mews, a narrow street of converted stables near Hyde Park. She invited many people to her studio and was renowned for giving her visitors tea and cake. The studio remained almost unchanged during the 50 years she occupied it and has been reconstructed in the Victoria and Albert Museum's ceramics gallery.

Rie was a friend of Bernard Leach, one of the leading figures in British studio pottery in the mid-20th century, and she was impressed by his views, especially concerning the "completeness" of a pot. [5] But despite his transient influence, her brightly coloured, delicate, modernist pottery stands apart from Leach's subdued, rustic, oriental work. She taught at Camberwell College of Arts from 1960 until 1972.


Blue plaque at her former home on 18 Albion Mews, Paddington, London

She stopped making pottery in 1990, when she suffered the first of a series of strokes. She died at home on 1 April 1995, aged 93.


Rie's work has been described as cosmopolitan,[6] she is best remembered for her bowl and bottle forms. Her pottery is still displayed in collections around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the York Art Gallery, UK.

Her studio was moved and reconstructed in the new ceramics gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum opened in 2009.

Awards and honours[edit]



  • Birks, Tony. Lucie Rie, Stenlake Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-1-84033-448-7.
  • Coatts, Margot (ed.). Lucie Rie and Hans Coper: Potters in Parallel, Herbert Press, 1997. ISBN 0-7136-4697-7.
  • Cooper, Emmanuel (ed.). Lucie Rie: The Life and Work of Lucie Rie, 1902-1995, Ceramic Review Publishing Ltd., 2002. ISBN 4-86020-122-1.
  • Frankel, Cyril. Modern Pots: Hans Coper, Lucie Rie & their Contemporaries, University of East Anglia Press, 2002. ISBN 0-946009-36-8.
  • "Dame Lucie Rie, 93, Noted Ceramicist", New York Times, April 3, 1995, B10.

External links[edit]