Lucie Rie 1902 - 1995


Private Collection, UK


This is a wonderful example of Lucie Rie’s distinctive coloured bowls with manganese decoration. Unlike in earlier bowls from the mid-1960s, where Rie would allow the manganese glaze to travel in drips down the sides, here the metallic detail is quite precise and contained around the rim.

The identifiable profile of this bowl is a recurring form in Rie’s oeuvre. The cover of Tony Birk’s monograph shows a similarly shaped bowl, glazed in a pure white with very fine, concentric bands of duck egg blue. The Victoria & Albert Museum own three bowls with a similar manganese rim, one of which, from c.1979, is markedly similar to the present work. These three works are on display at the V & A in the Timothy Sainsbury Gallery, where they form part of a life-size reconstruction of the artist’s studio.

Rie’s coloured porcelain is most often blue, green, yellow and pink, varying in opacity from a chalky matte to semi-translucent finish. Typically, her colours follow a harmonious soft-toned palette, but occasionally the colour is more intense - for example a deep turquoise or hot pink. The colour of this bowl feels particularly organic, the green glaze reminiscent of seaweed, the translucence and mottled dots suggesting the effect of sunlight glowing through leaves.

This bowl was made sometime after June 1985, by which time Rie would have been in her early eighties. It was acquired as a commission directly from Rie, but in this period she was also selling her work in exhibitions at the Fischer Gallery, London, and later at Galerie Besson, set up by former Fischer employee Anita Besson in 1988. In 1982, Rie was the subject of a BBC Omnibus profile, presented by the collector David Attenborough, and in 1989 she was given a major museum show at the Sogetsu Gallery, Tokyo and Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, Japan. This two-venue exhibition was devised and curated by the fashion designer Issey Miyake, who had only recently discovered her work. In the catalogue introduction, Miyake reflected on Rie’s unrivalled career:

‘Lucie Rie’s work is an accurate self-portrait of her own character; her soul is contained within these vessels. But they are distinct from the world of Japanese ceramics. While they share the warmth of fired earth, Lucie’s work embodies a world view that is unique to western culture and history. They are also very modest, very human, and most of all humane.’ 1

1 Issey Miyake meets Lucie Rie, Miyake Design Studio, Tokyo, 1989, p11