Hans Coper - Design & Design Art New York Thursday, December 13, 2007 | Phillips

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  • Literature

    Cyril Frankel, Modern Pots, Hans Coper, Lucie Rie & their Contemporaries, The Lisa Sainsbury Collection, London, 2000, p. 53 for a similar example

  • Catalogue Essay

    “My concern is with extracting essence rather than with experiment and exploration, the wheel imposes its economy, dictates limits, provides momentum and continuity.  Concentrating on continuous variations of simple themes I become part of the process; I am learning to operate a sensitive instrument which may be resonant to my experience of existence now – in this fantastic century.  Practicing a craft with ambiguous reference to purpose and function one has occasion to face absurdity.  More than anything, somewhat like a demented piano-tuner, one is trying to approximate a phantom pitch.  One is apt to take refuge in pseudo-principles which crumble.  Still, the routine of work remains. One deals with the facts.”
    - Hans Coper, Catalogue for Collingwood/Coper, V&A Museum, 1969 
    In the years immediately after the above text was written Hans’s health started to deteriorate rapidly. He had been diagnosed with the rare condition Ankylosing Spondylitis which began to limit the scale and quantity of the pieces that he was able to produce.  The last group of works, the “Cycladic” series, of which this is a rare example, became a condensing of all the visual information that he had applied to the earlier works but realized in what was now a manageable scale.  The written introduction to the 1969 exhibition somehow explains how Coper’s attitude to his art, the deterioration in his health and the restrictions that this imposed informed this incredible body of late works.

  • Artist Biography

    Hans Coper

    German • 1920 - 1981

    Hans Coper learned his craft in the London studio of Lucie Rie, having emigrated from Germany as a young Jewish engineering student in 1939. He initially assisted Rie in the studio with the ceramic buttons she made for the fashion industry, as well as ceramic tableware, but soon Coper was producing his own work. By 1951 he had received considerable recognition exhibiting his pots in the "Festival of Britain." 


    Coper favored compound shapes that, while simple in appearance, were in fact complex in construction. Similar to the making of Joseon Dynasty Moon Jars (Rie in fact displayed a Moon Jar in the studio), he would build his vessels by bringing several thrown forms together, for example joining bowls rim to rim. Coper eschewed glazes and preferred the textured surfaces achieved through the application of white and black slips, evoking the abraded texture of excavated vessels. This interest in ancient objects was very much in step with other modernists of his time—Coper admired Constantin Brancusi and Alberto Giacometti and his textured markings have been compared to sculptors such as William Turnbull.


    In the last phase of his career, Coper reduced the scale of his work creating small "Cycladic" pots that stood on pedestals or drums, recalling the clay figures of Bronze Age Greece. 

    View More Works


Important “Cycladic” arrow form

ca. 1972
T-material, white slip over a textured body.
8 2/3 in. (22 cm) high
Impressed with artist’s seal.

$30,000 - 40,000 

Sold for $37,000

Design & Design Art

13 Dec 2007, 2pm
New York