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LUCIE RIE & GERTRUD VASEGAARD


LUCIE RIE & GERTRUD VASEGAARD 1 - 23 September 2021 We are grateful for the generous help of Professor Henning Jørgensen, who has made this exhibition possible.

15 Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, London, W1S 4SP www.ehc.art | mail@ehc.art | +44 (0) 207 491 1706


Lucie Rie

Lucie Rie

Vase, c.1955

Small bowl, c.1970

stoneware, 20.5 x 18.5 cm (LR-0050)

stoneware, 6 x 10 cm (LR-0084)


Gertrud Vasegaard Tall, white vase with brown ornamentation, 1993 stoneware, 20 x 15.5 cm (GV-0020)


Lucie Rie (1902-1995)

Gertrud Vasegaard (1913-2007)

London, 1986

Copenhagen, 1984

Portrait by Zoë Dominic


Simple Pots, Simple Ideas: Lucie Rie and Gertrud Vasegaard in Parallel The following texts are by Professor Henning Jørgensen

To have the work of two modern potters, Lucie Rie and Gertrud Vasegaard, both internationally renowned for making some of the most beautiful and important ceramics of the 20th century, exhibited together for the first time is something of an achievement. It is a rare opportunity to be able to admire the similarities and differences between the sculptural works of these outstanding artists who, on a personal level, shared much in common. The beautiful and elegant works of Lucie Rie are celebrated as some of the most impressive in the ceramic world. Her career reached new heights following the joint retrospective with Hans Coper at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1994. Gertrud Vasegaard is perhaps less well known, though she emerged as an acclaimed artist during the 1950s and 1960s when Danish modern design conquered the world scene. She participated in many international exhibitions during these years; however, she never sought fame. She didn’t want to be connected directly to the craftsmen’s quest for ‘ideal forms’. Instead, she sought recognition as a free artist. Rie and Vasegaard established their careers before World War II, and made their most important works during the second half of the 20th century. They are represented by many international public and private collections. When viewing the work of these two modern artists, we encounter the warmth of fired earth and a simple philosophy behind it: that of love and beauty. Both combined minimalised forms with simple decorations and colours. Striking resemblances exist between the work of Rie and Vasegaard and, although they never met personally, their pots have crossed each other several times all over the world.


Lucie Rie Tall sgraffito vase, c.1958 porcelain, 21 x 14 cm (LR-0065)


Lucie Rie Bottle with flaring lip, 1970s porcelain, 24.1 x 13 cm (LR-0080)

Gertrud Vasegaard Bottle with stopper, 1940s stoneware, 15 x 9.5 cm (GV-0006)


Lucie Rie Footed bowl, c.1980 porcelain, manganese rim, 12.5 x 22 cm (LR-0113)


Lucie Rie (1902-1995) Born in Vienna, Lucie Rie started her career at the progressive Kunstgewerbeschule, where she developed an interest in modern and simple design. She made pots using earthenware, prioritising form and functionality over decoration. Her ceramics were influenced by the Bauhaus style and were very well received throughout continental Europe during the 1930s. However, just as she was beginning to establish a name for herself, she fled Vienna for London in response to the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938. British studio pottery was dominated by the work and writings of Bernard Leach, who together with his close friend, Shōji Hamada, popularised the Japanese aesthetic. Rie did not follow this path, but instead used her modern European ideals and ideas to produce stoneware pieces of her own style and functional form. She moved into her Albion Mews studio in 1945, soon meeting Hans Coper, who had escaped Germany before the war. In the earlier days of their life-long friendship, Rie helped him to become an independent potter of great sculptural strength. Rie and Coper together changed the scene of British ceramics. Leach was spontaneous and followed a more rustic style, while Rie was precise and refined. Her work adopted thickly textured glazes during the early 1960s and, from the 1970s, she incorporated hues of blue, green, yellow and pink, emphasising the elegance of the thrown forms. Rie introduced porcelain to her work, at times using it together with stoneware, or otherwise using the two clays separately. Some of her spiraled bottles and vases incorporated both materials, one colored with pigment and the other without. When porcelain and stoneware were thrown together, the spiral would develop, with the pigment colouring the overlaying glaze. Other pieces were coloured by copper and manganese pigments, mixed with the clay before it was thrown, rising through the glaze during firing. Experiments with glazes, painterly ‘knitted’ designs and sculptural boundaries resulted in many bright and brilliant vases and bowls, often topped with eye-catching bronze rims. Rie’s sgraffito works, made with a fine needle on leather-hard clay, give an impression of softness and warmth, and they were soon in strong demand, as were those with volcanic surfaces. Form was always emphasised, and is a particular quality of her vases with bulbous bodies, tall necks and flared lips. Inspiration from the simplicity of Song dynasty ceramics is noticeable in her bowls with rounded forms, thin walls, and tall feet, as well as the elegant curves of her later works. However, her surfaces and glazes do not echo the past. From the 1990s, she and Coper were elevated to a pivotal position in the world of ceramics: an unrivalled position until today. Her works are not craft, but art, which easily stand along a sculpture by Henry Moore or a painting by Jackson Pollock or Piet Mondrian.


Gertrud Vasegaard (1913-2007) The ceramics of Danish potter, Gertrud Vasegaard may be considered of equal importance. Born in Rønne, a small Baltic town on the island of Bornholm, situated far away from Denmark’s mainland, Vasegaard comes from a ceramic family. Her father was a pioneering stoneware producer and ran a ceramic factory. Following her studies of ceramics in Copenhagen in 1933, she returned to Bornholm where she and her sister, Lisbeth Munch-Petersen, worked with earthenware as the first makers of studio ceramics in Denmark. Similar to Lucie Rie, Vasegaard was a kind of émigré, having left her native town for Copenhagen after 1945. In her pursuit of producing stoneware pottery, she left for an urban life of greater opportunity and a stronger connection to the developments in modern art. An Eastern aesthetic, reaching back to Song dynasty and simple Korean ceramics, is represented also in Vasegaard’s work. Her forms deviated from those by other ceramicists, as she worked to develop a critical language of her own which would touch the human soul. One may sense nature’s inspiration behind the subdued ornamentation of her works. This association with nature was soon accompanied by a fascination with geometric abstraction. Vasegaard’s art flourished by the 1960s, at which time she joined the March Exhibition, a small group of abstract and semi-abstract artists. Her style developed in several ways. Crucially, she focused on the importance of the clay, leaving the fired body of many pieces bare and exposed, believing it helped her work to express itself. She decorated her pots with abstract, constructive lines, stepped patterns and short strokes, which she sometimes joined together like a rhythmic dance. Her forms grew both vertically and horizontally into large cylinder shapes, or basins (in Danish, ‘kumme’ forms). She refined her ornamentation and colour schemes. Warm and calm colours, combined with her forms and decoration, crystallised the poetic, and sometimes dramatic, underlying experience. Stripes were often used by Vasegaard. Like musical passages, they play an important part in accentuating the form. At times, they create tension between light and shadow, particularly on multiple-sided cylinders. Strokes, quivering and never quite straight, were meant to be formative. One may interpret them as the oscillation between an illuminated object and its shadow in nature. Distinct and collective decorations conjoin, appearing as geometric patterns. Small squares, triangles and other shapes decorating the cylinder mingle and unite. In this way, Vasegaard’s ornamentation does not become progressively linear, but rather appears as if in motion. The visual rhythm that is ever present in her work is defined by the tempo and scale of the cylinder’s bends and turnings. Light and her use of light in colours is of equal focus in Vasegaard’s ceramics. Each of her pieces appears entirely enveloped in a soft light, which is an intrinsic part of their poetry and expression. The modelling effects from light and glazing identify her ceramic voice. She masterfully captured reflected light in her glazing techniques, virtually making her pieces dance.


Gertrud Vasegaard Two bowls with ears, 1997 stoneware, 11 cm high and 7.8 cm high (GV-0014 & GV-0005)


Lucie Rie Knitted bowl, c.1980 stoneware, 9.5 x 18.5 cm (LR-0112)

Gertrud Vasegaard Conical white and grey bowl with blue strokes, 1970s stoneware, 7 x 18 cm (GV-0018)


Rie and Vasegaard in Parallel Sight and touch play equal roles of importance in experiencing the works of Rie and Vasegaard. Looking and handling lend a multisensory understanding in the world of ceramics, giving an impression of form, material, weight, and quality. One is encouraged to have such an experience with the works that are brought together in this exhibition. There are some visual similarities between the works of these two artists. The beauty of imperfection was admired by both, but perhaps Vasegaard cultivated this philosophy most noticeably. Both potters were interested in architectural forms, though they took different approaches to referencing this in their work. A piece by Rie normally has a small foot, which gives a sense of lift and weightlessness to the body. One by Vasegaard appears to grow naturally out of the ground on which it stands. They have a quality of being solidly planted, like steles opposing the restless motion of time. This is a clear difference of graceful elegance and artistic strength. These approaches correspond to the materials used: while Rie often created thin and delicate pieces from porcelain, her Danish contemporary made solely from stoneware. Using transparent glazes, both strived to reveal the essence of the clay, bringing a humanity to their work. Rie finished her works with circular and horizontal stripes, whereas Vasegaard did not see the line as something straight, but as a trace of moving points. Her stripes are not linear and cold, but rather warm as woollen threads. Rie did not like the idea of decoration: she kept it to a minimum by encising stripes and scratches on the surface. The spiral design of her pottery is unique. Her works are delicate and rhythmic, while those of Vasegaard are more modest, discreet and undemonstrative, but have a sense of authority about them. In art, one may identify sequences of division and contraction. Circular lines return to where they began or to their own center, producing a perception of growth and expansion. Both expansion and compression may be felt in the same piece by Vasegaard, whereas Rie used sgraffito to articulate points of transition in forms and connections. They both demonstrated a true mastery in the balancing of these dividing and contracting elements, and in the warm and mild reflection of light. They also divided their attention equally between the inside and outside of their bowls and vessels. Rie used many colours in a daring way, while Vasegaard’s colours were more muted. Rie’s pieces are vibrant and pleasing to the eye, whereas those by Vasegaard are moderate, yet celebrative. To say that Rie’s work is to the feminine side and Vasegaard’s to the masculine may be a premature assessment. They are artists of their own. An important artist cannot easily be compared with others because it is the incomparable in him or her that is fundamental. Something, then, belongs exclusively to Rie and another quality to Vasegaard. Everything in their work seems to lead a vigorous life of its own, “...as a Chinese jar still moves perpetually in its stillness” (T.S. Eliot).


Common Vision, Different Executions

The basic philosophies of Rie and Vasegaard were quite similar, but the ways of creating their work deviated. The graceful elegance of Rie’s porcelain differs from the luminous strength of Vasegaard’s stoneware. Neither of them intended to express cultural, political or religious identity, but instead to celebrate the magic and divine beauty in the world. Early on, both Rie and Vasegaard were interested in the Bauhaus art school and the basic idea of reimagining the material world to reflect the unity of all kinds of art. No line of division was to be drawn between art and craft. Colour, form and space are basic Bauhaus motifs, represented in the later works of both artists, along with Eastern influences. However, these Bauhaus ideas had never been a foundation, but merely a part of their inspiration. Quietness and greatness are emblems of Rie’s and Vasegaard’s ceramics. Quietness allows one to listen to oneself. It is a pause for the mind. A time for inner growth. It is remarkable that an object as static and simple as a ceramic bowl can constitute an optical and physical praise of the world – a homage to the heart of existence. One bowl by Rie or Vasegaard can express more than it means, as if it were the sum of all bowls. Their works embrace simplicity and richness at the same time. In the pieces that are now gathered in London, you can feel the sensation of a bigger vision: universal equality in shape, form, material, and colour - unity.

Professor Henning Jørgensen is an art critic and art historian based in Denmark. He is the author of the definitive monograph on Gertrud Vasegaard published in 2011.


Lucie Rie’s home Photographer unknown Copyright estates of the artists

Gertrud Vasegaard’s home Photographer unknown Copyright estate of the artist


Lucie Rie Large footed bowl, c.1968 mixed clays, 14 x 23.7 cm (LR-0033)


Lucie Rie Small bowl, 1970s stoneware, 7 x 10.5 cm (LR-0111)

Gertrud Vasegaard Grey and white bowl with small circles, 1988 stoneware, 12 x 16 cm (GV-0019)


Gertrud Vasegaard Bowl, 1970s stoneware, 9.5 x 13.8 cm (GV-0007)


Lucie Rie Bowl, 1956 porcelain, 13 x 26 cm (LR-0024)


Gertrud Vasegaard Large, oval, white and grey dish with brown strokes, 1990 stoneware, 10.5 x 42.5 cm (GV-0016)


Gertrud Vasegaard Grey and white bowl with brown and black ornamentation, 1970s stoneware, 12 x 21 cm (GV-0017)


Lucie Rie Bowl, c.1960 porcelain, 14.5 x 22 cm (LR-0108)


Lucie Rie Footed bowl, 1970s stoneware, 10.2 x 21.6 cm (LR-0106)


Gertrud Vasegaard Bowl with ears, 1997 stoneware, 7.8 x 22.3 x 16 cm (GV-0005)


Gertrud Vasegaard Large cylinder with underlaying pattern, 1967 stoneware, 29 x 28.5 cm (GV-0015)


Lucie Rie White dish with blue lines, 1950s stoneware, 6 x 24 x 19 cm (LR-0083)


Gertrud Vasegaard Lidded jar, 1997 stoneware, 19 x 19 cm (GV-0004)


Gertrud Vasegaard Tall, white vase with brown ornamentation, 1993 stoneware, 20 x 15.5 cm (GV-0020)


Lucie Rie Vase, 1966 stoneware, 19 x 10 cm (LR-0105)


Lucie Rie Oil and vinegar pourers, 1950s stoneware, 15 x 8 cm and 14.5 x 7 cm (LR-0109)


Gertrud Vasegaard Bottle with stopper, 1940s stoneware, 15 x 9.5 cm (GV-0006)


Gertrud Vasegaard Bowl with blue and white vertical strokes, 1996 stoneware, 11.5 x 9 cm (GV-0021)


Gertrud Vasegaard Beakers with geometrical rhomboids, 1970s stoneware, 10.5 cm high and 10.3 cm high (GV-0011 & GV-0008)


Gertrud Vasegaard Lidded jar with white and yellow stripes, 1986 stoneware, 11 x 15 cm (GV-0022)


Gertrud Vasegaard Lidded jar with white and blue stripes, 1986 stoneware, 11 x 14.5 cm (GV-0013)


Lucie Rie (1902-1995) 1902 Born in Vienna, Lucie Marie Gomperz was the youngest of three children 1921-26 Studied pottery at Kunstgewerbeschule in Vienna 1926 Worked in Michael Powolny’s studio for six months. Married a businessman, Hans Rie in Vienna 1935-37 Awarded prizes at the Brussels International Exhibition, the Milan Triennial and at the Paris International Exhibition 1938-39 Escaped to London as a refugee and established her own studio in Albion Mews 1940 Worked for Fritz Lampl making glass buttons, and later ceramic buttons 1943 Marriage to Hans Rie dissolved 1945-53 Made ceramic buttons for Bimini 1946-58 Hired Hans Coper to assist in her workshop, and shared her workshop with Coper during this time 1949 First exhibition in London at the Berkeley Galleries 1953 Participated in an exhibition, ‘English Ceramics’ at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam 1954 From this time, Rie often exhibited individually or with Hans Coper in cities throughout the USA and Europe, including New York, Minneapolis, Gothenburg, Rotterdam, Arnhem, Hamburg, Düsseldorf and extensively around Britain 1958-59 Exhibited her work in ‘British Artist Craftsmen,’ a travelling group exhibition hosted by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and which later toured around the USA 1960 Participated in an exhibition, ‘English Potters’ at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam 1960-71 Taught at the Camberwell College of Arts in London 1964 Awarded the Gold Medal at the Munich International Exhibition 1967 Rie’s first retrospective was held at the Arts Council Gallery in London, and later moved to Nottingham and Bristol, UK 1968 Awarded Order of the British Empire (OBE) 1969 Awarded Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Art in London 1981 Awarded Commander of the British Empire (CBE) 1986 Exhibited her work in ‘Nine Potters,’ an exhibition at Fischer Fine Art in London, curated by Anita Besson 1988 Anita Besson opened Galerie Besson at 15 Royal Arcade in London with a Lucie Rie solo exhibition 1989 ‘Issey Miyake meets Lucie Rie’ was held at Sogetsu Gallery and later at the Museum of Oriental Ceramics in Osaka, Japan 1991 Awarded Dame Commander of the British Empire 1992 Awarded Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh 1994 ‘Hans Coper & Lucie Rie’ was shown at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York 1995 Passed away on the 1st of April in London 1995 onwards Major retrospectives of Rie’s work were held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, England as well as in museums throughout Japan


Lucie Rie Bowl with spiral clays, 1960s stoneware, 10.2 x 15.5 cm (LR-0043)


Gertrud Vasegaard (1913-2007) 1913 1927-29 1930-32 1931

Born in Rønne on Bornholm, Gertrud Hjorth’s mother was a painter and her father a potter, the first to work in stoneware in Denmark Worked at her family’s terracotta pottery, founded in 1859 by her grandfather, Lauritz Hjorth in Rønne, as a decorator of the tableware produced from the factory Studied at The School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen Began her career in the new workshop run by Axel Salto and Bode Willumsen in Copenhagen

1933 First exhibition in Copenhagen 1933-36 Opened and ran a workshop with her sister, Lisbeth Hjorth (Munch-Petersen) in Gudhjem on Bornholm, producing the first Danish studio ceramics 1935 Married the painter and graphic artist, Sigurd Vasegaard. Together they had a daughter, Myre Vasegaard, who was born the following year and would later become a potter 1938-48 Established a new home and workshop in Holkadalen near Gudhjem with Sigurd 1945-48 Worked at Bing & Grøndahl porcelain factory in Copenhagen during the winter 1945 Received her first prize after submitting two of her works to a major competition 1947 Participated in an exhibition, ‘New Stoneware from Bing & Grøndahl’ in Copenhagen 1948 Divorced from Sigurd. Participated in a joint exhibition in Stockholm, ‘Bing & Grøndahl Stoneware,1910-1948’ 1949 Left Bornholm for Copenhagen 1954-57 Exhibited her work in ‘Design in Scandinavia,’ a travelling exhibition hosted by 25 museums in the USA 1957 Recipient of the Gold Medal at the Triennial in Milan 1958 Participated in an exhibition, ‘Scandinavian Forms’ at the Louvre in Paris 1959-68 Established a workshop in Copenhagen with Aksel Rode and her daughter, Myre 1960-61 Participated in an exhibition, ‘The Arts of Denmark’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York 1963 Awarded the Eckersberg Medal by the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts 1968 Participated in an exhibition, ‘Two Centuries of Danish Design’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London 1969-82 Exhibited her work in the ‘March Exhibition’ in Copenhagen every other year with 10 Danish abstract and figurative artists 1981 Awarded the Prince Eugen Medal, presented by the King of Sweden 1984-85 Retrospective exhibition was held at The Danish Museum of Art and Design in Copenhagen. A selection of the works travelled to the National Museum in Stockholm and the Holstebro Art Museum 1988-90 Received awards and distinctions in recognition of her achievements in ceramics, including the Ole Haslund, Niels Larsen Stevns and Lis Ahlmann scholarships, as well as the National Bank’s Honorary Scholarship 1993 Participated in an exhibition with her daughter, Myre, and in 1998 with Myre and her ex-husband, Sigurd 2006 Included in the Danish cultural canon 2007 Passed away on the 7th of July in Copenhagen 2011 First foreign solo exhibition at Galerie Besson in London, resulting in museum acquisitions Retrospective exhibition was held at the Holstebro Art Museum and the Bornholm Art Museum


Gertrud Vasegaard Brown bowl with white spots, 1986 stoneware, 9.5 x 13 cm (GV-0012)


Lucie Rie Vase, c.1966 stoneware, 22.5 x 12 cm (LR-0110)

Studio Photography by Stuart Burford Printed by WKG Print Copyright Erskine, Hall & Coe Ltd www.ehc.art


Profile for Erskine, Hall & Coe

Lucie Rie & Gertrud Vasegaard  

Erskine, Hall & Coe are delighted to present Lucie Rie & Gertrud Vasegaard, an exhibition of works by two of the great 20th century artists...

Lucie Rie & Gertrud Vasegaard  

Erskine, Hall & Coe are delighted to present Lucie Rie & Gertrud Vasegaard, an exhibition of works by two of the great 20th century artists...

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