Monday 12 February 2024
A black and white photograph by Lord Snowdon of the artist’s gnarled hands covered in wet clay opens this volume. This sparse yet intimate portrait sets the tone for what we learn about Lucie Rie: that in her life and work, Rie was private, intuitive, and did everything on her own terms.
The book is a companion publication to the retrospective exhibition that began at MIMA, then went to Kettle’s Yard and concluded at the Holburne Museum in Bath. It usefully balances plentiful illustrations of her vessels with discussion of the various contexts that shaped the distinct periods of her work.
Edmund de Waal considers the influences of Viennese culture and politics on Rie’s early sense of aesthetics as she came of age amid a hotbed of European modernism. Tanya Harrod picks up this thread by further delving into Rie’s stylistic evolution within cultural circles in London and Britain, while Helen Ritchie’s essay examines Rie’s domestic studio, exploring the interplay between public and private that shaped the artist’s work and life. An essay by Kimberley Chandler draws out Rie’s lesser-known yet fascinating activities as a button-maker. Eliza Spindel makes a compelling argument for considering the influence of the natural world, noting the artist’s studies of lichen, coral, and flora and fauna. A detailed and technical essay from Nigel Wood on Rie’s precision in glazing and firing techniques will no doubt appeal to potters and ceramic fans alike.
While the book quotes Rie as saying: ‘I do not attempt to be original or different’, it seems determined to prove the opposite, showing just how innovative, influential, and singular Rie’s work has been (and continues to be) in 20th-century British art histories.
LUCIE RIE: THE ADVENTURE OF POTTERY
Andrew Nairne & Eliza Spindel, eds, Kettle’s Yard, 2023, pb £39.95
Condensed from a review by Abi Shapiro in DAS Newsletter No. 129