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Dame Lucie Rie, Leading Ceramicist, Dies at 93

April 1, 1995

LONDON (AP) _ Dame Lucie Rie, one of the most admired modern potters, died Saturday at the home and studio where for half a century she honed her craft into art. She was 93.

Cyril Frankel, a close friend, said Rie’s health had declined since she suffered a stroke five years ago. He did not give the cause of her death.

An exhibition of Rie pottery and the work of Hans Coper, her collaborator and lifelong friend, opened at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in February.

``Pots they may have called them, but art is what they are,″ Frankel told The Financial Times newspaper before the New York exhibit opened.

``The dichotomy between fine art and the decorative arts has always seemed invidious and nowhere more so than in this superb exhibition of pieces that are as beautiful as they are useful.″

Lucie Rie was born into a prosperous family in Vienna and studied at Wiener Werkstatte, Vienna’s avant-garde arts and crafts studio.

In 1938, as Adolph Hitler gained power, Lucie and her husband Hans Rie, moved to London. They soon separated.

Coper, a German refugee, started as a novice at Rie’s studio in 1946, then became her collaborator. In the early years, while struggling to make a living, they made ceramic buttons, now highly prized.

They became the closest friends and remained so even when Coper moved away and set up his own studio. Coper, 18 years younger than Rie, died in 1981.

A very small, delicate woman, Rie tied weights to her feet so she wouldn’t fall head first into her kiln while working alone.

She worked in vivid colors, brilliantly glazed magenta, peacock blue and gold. Her works are sophisticated Western ceramics, neither rustic nor Japanese-influenced.

Public appreciation has grown steadily, and prices for Rie work have soared. A Rie teapot sold at auction in December for $6,000, about four times the estimated price. A Rie vase sold for $22,000 _ her record.

She was, Frankel once said, very fond of baking elegant cakes for the friends who visited.

She was made a dame, the female equivalent of a knight, in 1991.

Sir David Attenborough, who narrated a BBC film about Lucie Rie in 1982, said Saturday, ``She was a small, quiet lady who would always dress in white, normally a trouser suit. She had an astonishing authority and would be able to prick pretension in a way that would leave you gasping.

``She was the inspiration for potters of a generation who would admire her without copying her,″ he said. ``She was extremely prolific in the colors and shapes she produced and never made anything the same twice.″

No funeral plans were immediately announced.

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