On this day, we are honoured to celebrate the wonderful life of Dame Lucie Rie, DBE (16 March 1902 – 1 April 1995), the award-winning British studio potter. We’re bowling over with pride for this past resident of the Marble Arch and Edgware Road area. This is the fourth article in our ‘Marvellous Matriarchs of Marble Arch’ series.
Rie was born to be a potter. As a child she admired her uncle’s Roman pottery collection and didn’t waste any time honing her craft, setting up her first studio when she was only 23 years old. In the same year, she exhibited at the Paris International Exhibition with pieces that married her interests in and influences from Neoclassicism, Jugendstil, modernism, and Japonism pottery. Eight years later in 1937, she won a silver medal at the very same exhibition alongside fellow greats, like Pablo Picasso who painted Guernica at the exact same event.
Although born in Austria and lived in Vienna for her young adult life, Rie fled to London in 1938 to escape the Nazis. War time was difficult for everyone, artists included. To make ends meet, she made ceramic buttons and accessories, 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. Following the end of the war, Rie exhibited her works with friend and colleague Hans Coper in 1948, as well as debuted her first solo show as a potter in 1949.
Rie’s studio, which is located near the Marble Arch London BID, sat at 18 Albion Mews. She was known for inviting people to her studio and welcoming her guests with homemade tea and cake. It was here that she made buttons and perfected her pottery. The Victoria and Albert Museum transported and reconstructed her studio, which she hardly changed in her 50 year residency. You can see it for yourself at the V&A’s ceramics gallery.
She was a visionary of her time, creating cosmopolitan and brightly coloured pieces, influencing leading potters and developed an inventive kiln process. In fact, Rie was honoured with awards many times over and her works are displayed at some of the most notable galleries in the world, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the York Art Gallery in the UK, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, and Paisley Museum in Scotland. Her most famous creations are vases, and tea bowls, which drew inspiration mainly from Japan. She was awarded the title of Dame Commander (DCE) after teaching at the Camberwell School of Art from 1960 until 1971.
To this day, Rie’s delicate pieces inspire the masses. Her style is replicated by luxury homeware brands to high street names like Anthropologie and Zara Home. We are honoured to call her a past resident of our beloved Marble Arch area.