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Lucie Rie: The Adventure of Pottery – Kettle’s Yard, UK

4 Mar — 25 Jun 2023

Lucie Rie: The Adventure of Pottery

4th March – 25th June 2023
Press View: 3rd March 2023: 10.45am – 1pm

To make pottery is an adventure to me, every new work is a new beginning.” – Lucie Rie

Kettle’s Yard is delighted to present Lucie Rie: The Adventure of Pottery. This major exhibition will offer a rare opportunity to experience Lucie Rie’s (1902-1995) ground-breaking ceramics across six decades. Featuring over 100 works from private and public collections, the exhibition will consider afresh the singular nature of Rie’s artistic achievement. Her remarkable body of work, exceptional in its variety, elegance and experimentation, continues to astonish and inspire today.

Rie was born and raised in Vienna, at the height of the city’s creative reputation, and later trained at the city’s school of Arts and Crafts under the famed Wiener Werkstätte. Her prize-winning pots of the 1920s and 1930s are infused by modernist tenets of experiment and rigour, characteristics that informed her artistic approach to the end of her career. A 1936 earthenware tea set will be an early highlight in the exhibition, its simple shapes and fine rims complemented by the red clay’s unglazed, burnished surface.

In 1938, Rie fled Austria to escape the Nazi persecution of Jewish people, choosing to settle in London, a watershed in her life and work. During the war, she turned to making ceramic buttons for the fashion industry, experimenting with miniature forms and new glazes in the process. The Adventure of Pottery will feature an array of buttons with knotted and twisting shapes that the artist used to study form, colour and texture on a smaller scale.

One of a few female potters working independently, Rie consistently forged her own path. She re-established her career in Britain after the war, gaining a reputation for her refined tableware and ambitious one-off bowls and vases. Her work, striking for its modernity and individuality, stood out from that of other English studio potters who primarily looked to medieval and East Asian traditions. Nevertheless, Rie drew inspiration from many sources, including ancient ceramics, modern design and the natural world. Works from this period exhibit Rie’s signature use of sgraffito (etched linear designs), and the painterly, expressive use of glazes. Constantly experimenting, Rie developed forms, colours and surfaces that pushed the boundaries of studio ceramics. Unusually, her pots were only fired once, the glazes applied by brush while the clay was still raw and unfired.

Rie’s experimentation continued into her later decades, with long-necked vases and footed bowls demonstrating elegance offset with coloured glazes full of expressive life. The Adventure of Pottery will showcase works from this period finished with vibrant turquoise, bronze and yellow glazes, including a pink bowl adorned with delicate inlaid lines and a golden manganese drip, which Rie completed in 1990 at the age of 88.

Andrew Nairne, Director, Kettle’s Yard said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with MIMA to present this major new exhibition dedicated to the work of Lucie Rie. The pieces on display will showcase the astonishing breadth, versality and beauty of Rie’s work across her long career, as well as her technical innovations that have permanently extended the language of studio pottery. Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to see a number of exceptional bowls by Rie which are on permanent display in the Kettle’s Yard House, alongside the work of other 20th-century studio potters.

Lucie Rie: The Adventure of Pottery will travel to Kettle’s Yard from MIMA, Middlesbrough, where it runs from 10 November 2022 – 12 February 2023. A selection from the exhibition will be shown at the Holburne Museum, Bath, from 14 July 2023 to 7 January 2024.

The exhibition is designed by David Kohn Architects.

The exhibition at Kettle’s Yard will be accompanied by a fully illustrated publication, including new texts by Kimberley Chandler, Tanya Harrod, Helen Ritchie, Eliza Spindel, Edmund de Waal and Nigel Wood.

During the exhibition Kettle’s Yard’s Clore Learning Studio will be transformed into a ‘Button Workshop’ for six weeks – inspired by Lucie Rie’screation of ceramic buttons between 1941 and 1955.

Lucie Rie: The Adventure of Pottery is organised by Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge and MIMA, part of Teesside University, in association with The Holburne Museum, Bath.

Exhibition supported by the AKO Foundation’

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