Austrian-born Lucie Rie (1902-1995) was a celebrated studio potter, known for her innovative ceramic forms, experimental glazes and vibrant surface decoration. Made in 1976, this porcelain vessel from the Sainsbury Collection was thrown on a wheel in sections, which were then altered and joined to produce the subtle geometry of a bottle.  The bottle’s composite form is an elegant study of how light falls on the planes of an object.
The simple form of this vessel combines a squared-off base with an inverted funnel-shaped neck. To add interest to the bottle’s profile, Rie has created a pronounced ridge beneath the rim, which encircles the form’s elongated neck. Although the bottle’s form is symmetrical, its shape does not appear static. When throwing, Rie was unconcerned with perfectly centring the clay on the wheelhead, and the resulting wobble or ‘quiver’ imbues her pots with an organic quality. 
Rie raw-glazed her pottery, firing it once in an electric kiln in an oxidised atmosphere. Her glazes were thickly applied to the greenware using a household brush, and once dry, the work was subjected to a glaze temperature firing at around 1260 degrees.  This method is more cost effective because it eliminates the preliminary bisque firing, but it can also increase the risk of the clay cracking and warping in the kiln. Rie adopted this way of working in Vienna, when the nearest kiln was situated a tram ride away from her studio. 
The whiteness of the slightly pitted, smooth matt glaze decorating this bottle was probably produced with additions of tin and zinc. Rie mixed her own porcelain clay: a combination of ball clay, china clay, Bentonite, feldspar and flint. This mixture was an adaption of Bernard Leach’s recipe, published in ‘A Potter’s Book’ in 1940.  Rie sieved the ingredients, added water, and then left the clay to dry until it was workable and could be wedged.  This laborious process reveals Rie’s understanding of the chemistry of her clay bodies and glazes, which provided the basis of her many experiments with surface texture and colour.
From the age of twenty Rie trained at the School of Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule) in Vienna, receiving tuition from the technically adept potter and co-founder of Wiener Keramik, Michael Powolny (1871—1954).  Architect, designer and co-founder of the Wiener Werkstätte, Josef Hoffmann (1870—1956) recognised Rie’s talent and in 1937 selected seventy of her works for display in the Paris International Exhibition, winning Rie the silver medal.  By this point in her career, she had participated in at least four international exhibitions. 
The rise of the Nazi party in Austria forced Rie to flee Jewish persecution and seek asylum overseas. Arriving in England in October 1938, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, Rie quickly established a studio in Albion Mews in London. After trying her hand at making glass buttons for Fritz Lampl (1892—1955), Rie began manufacturing ceramic buttons and jewellery for haute couture fashion houses, examples of which can be found in the Sainsbury Collection (object number: L.64). 
Lucie Rie formed many enduring friendships throughout her long and productive career, most significantly with the potters Bernard Leach (1887—1979) and Hans Coper (1920—1981). Lord and Lady Sainsbury were enthusiastic supporters of her work, inviting Rie to exhibit at the Sainsbury Centre in November 1981  and September 1990.  Rie was awarded an OBE in 1968, and a DBE in 1991 for her contribution to art and culture in Britain. 
Vanessa Tothill, December 2021
 Tony Birks, Lucie Rie (Somerset: Marston House, 1987, revised ed. 1994), pp. 198-99.
 Birks, p. 62.
 Birks, p. 66. 70-1.
 Birks, p. 61.
 Margot Coatts, ‘Lucie Rie and Hans Coper: Potters in Parallel’ (London: Herbert Press and Barbican Art Gallery, 1997), p. 41. Birks, p. 61.
 Birks, p. 61.
 Birks, pp. 17-20.
 Birks, p. 23.
 Birks, p. 33.
 Birks, p. 38, pp. 86-7.
 Birks, pp. 72-3.
 Birks, p. 78.
 Birks, p. 223.
Acquired by the Sainsbury Family in 1976. Donated to the Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia in 1973 as part of the original gift.
Not on display
Artist/Maker: Lucie Rie
Object Type: Bottle
Measurements: h. 228 x w. 72 x d. 69 mm
Accession Number: 412
Historic Period: 20th century
Copyright: © Estate of the Artist
Credit Line: Donated by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury, 1973