The wares of both émigré potters, the perfect three-dimensional foil to a Patrick Heron oil or a Ben Nicholson collage, now command the sums once reserved for flat art and sculpture.
As the collections of the first generation of enthusiasts, typically those buying in the primary market in the 1960s-70s, come to market, the supply is relatively healthy.
The sale at Lawrences (22.5% inc VAT + Lot Fee of £8) of Crewkerne on October 12 included a collection of studio ceramics formed by Lord and Lady Peyton of Yeovil. John Peyton, once a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party, was MP for Yeovil for 31 years from 1951-83.
The collection included three vases by Coper: all of them textbook forms with white slip and manganese glazes.
An 8in (20cm) high stoneware Spade vase estimated at £6000-8000 took £26,000 on thesaleroom.com, a 7in (18cm) Thistle vase with some small imperfections made £18,000, while a 15in (37cm) high Hourglass form raced away to take £82,000.
The Hourglass was a type that once held the record for Coper but this has been bettered on several occasions in recent years. Just eight days before this Somerset sale, the monumental 20in (50cm) tall bottle vase with disc had taken £520,000 (estimate £80,000-120,000) at Bonhams.
The Lord and Lady Peyton collection included a number of vases and bowls by Rie – again signature wares from the potter’s most desirable period.
Two porcelain footed bowls with brightly coloured glazes performed well against what, in the context of the current market, were conservative estimates.
An 8in (20cm) bowl with bands of pink, turquoise and green glazes and a radiating sgraffito design took £28,000 (estimate £8000-12,000) while another, smaller at 5in (13cm), with a vibrant turquoise glaze and manganese drip rim made £26,000 (£5000-7000).
Duke’s (25% buyer’s premium) Art & Design post 1880 sale on September 30 included items from the collection of Bournemouth and Poole College.
The consignment (the auction house had sold 176 lots from the same source in 2016) included a particularly well-executed Rie conical form bowl from the 1970s. Measuring 9in (23cm) across, it contrasted the porcelain ground with a manganese glaze through a series of tightly drawn sgraffito lines. Estimated at £5000-10,000, it took £36,000.
Gifts from Rie
A dozen lots by Rie were offered as part of the sale of Modern Art & Design at Anderson & Garland (25% buyer’s premium) in Newcastle upon Tyne on October 13.
Comprising both ‘fine’ decorative wares and more modest utilitarian pieces, they had been gifts from the potter to the vendor’s parents who were close personal friends. The first tranche of this Newcastle area consignment, first seen by specialist Nigel Smith four years ago, had been sold by the auction house a year ago.
Owning some of the pieces since the 1950s, the family had used them regularly in daily life.
The vendor, now in his 80s, recalled using an oval stoneware bowl with dark brown glaze as his breakfast cereal bowl for many years. It had some rim chips to prove it. Carrying impressed LR and HC monograms for both Rie and Coper (then working in London as her assistant) it made £680.
The quintessential Rie pot in miniature was a 2in (6cm) high porcelain sake cup with incised vertical lines and matt chocolate glazed borders and interior. Many would have liked to own it at the three-figure estimate but it raced way to bring £7200.
A larger 6in (15cm) bowl of similar 1970s date and decoration brought less on account of a firing fault. This porcelain flared conical bowl with incised radiating line decoration to the interior and exterior and brushed gilt borders (a type that can bring more than £20,000) sold at the lower end of a £6000-8000 estimate.
Perhaps the most atypical piece in this group – the one that did not immediately shout Lucie Rie – was a small 5in (13cm) diameter straight-sided bowl with a brown glazed rim and a series of impressed and pale green painted pendant rings.
Thought to be an experimental piece of the type that Rie occasionally gave away to family and friends, it was guided at £1000-1500 but sold online at £17,000.