A Modernist Potter (1920-1981)
Hans Coper was an influential modernist ceramist. Originally born in Germany, Coper migrated to England in 1939. Coper’s work was of a ‘continental’ sensibility – it had little or nothing to do with Leach’s ‘Sung Standard’. Coper was concerned less with the revival of Chinese or Korean rural expression, but rather with – as he wrote – “extracting essence” from pottery. This may be interpreted as a desire to make conceptual work, albeit still based on the vessel, rather than functional pottery. Thus we find strong sculptural elements in his work.
Coper’s distinctive pots are thrown, altered and assembled. The rough stoneware surface has been rubbed with oxides, often with manganese. (It has been said that Coper died of manganese poisoning, but this has been disputed). Coper was a contemporary and colleague of another great British emigré potter, Lucy Rie (1902-1995), having worked with her for 13 years after WWII. Although their styles differ markedly, both of these influential artists shared a common sensitivity rooted in their appreciation of urban architecture and modern design. Although there is no ‘Coper School’ as such, many contemporary ceramists have been influenced by Coper’s (and Rie’s) work, notably Roseline Delisle, Wouter Dam or Gwynn Hanssen Pigott.