Coper, Hans

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Working period: 
1946 -
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Hans Coper was born in Chemnitz (Germany) on 8 April 1920. His family lived in Reichenbach, Dresden and Leipzig. In 1939 he left Germany and came to England as a refugee. In 1946 he met Lucie Rie and began to work at the Albion Mews Pottery. He became a British Subject in 1958, and the following year he moved to Digswell, Hertfordshire, where he was one of the founder members of the architectural group there. During the 1960s he made two large murals composed of ceramic discs and designed a wide range of ceramic claddings. In 1960 he started teaching at Camberwell School of Art and in 1966 at the Royal College of Art, having returned to London in 1963. In 1967 he moved to Frome, Somerset, where he died in 1981.
Hans Coper’s first exhibitions were held at the Berkeley Galleries in London during the 1950’s, often with Lucie Rie. In 1951 he and Lucie Rie exhibited together in the Homes and Gardens Pavilion at the Festival of Britain in a room set designed by Robin Day. The 1950’s and 1960’s also saw exhibitions in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, New York, Washington DC and Tokyo. In 1969 he shared a major joint exhibition with the weaver Peter Collingwood at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Exhibitions at Kettles Yard, Cambridge and the Robert Welch Gallery, in Chipping Camden in the late 1970’s were followed by a 60th Birthday exhibition at the Hetjens Museum in Dusseldorf in 1980. After Coper’s death in 1981 a number of major retrospective exhibitions have been mounted including Hans Coper 1920 – 1981 at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (and touring) in 1983-4, Lucie Rie/ Hans Coper: Masterworks by Two British Potters at the Metropolitan Museum, New York in 1994, Lucie Rie / Hans Coper: Potters in Parallel at the Barbican Art Gallery, London in 1997 and most recently a major touring exhibition in Japan entitled Hans Coper Retrospective: Innovation in 20th Century Ceramics. Galerie Besson first exhibited Hans Coper in its opening year in 1988 and has continued to hold regular exhibits of his work. In 2009 an exhibition of Hans Coper and Peter Collingwood was mounted to mark the fortieth anniversary of the shared 1969 V&A exhibition (Text: Gallery Besson, London).

Images: Portrait of Hans Coper at his Hammersmith Studio, 1965, photographer Jane Coper (source Birks, Tony page 124); cycladic arrow, c.1975, height 27 cm (source Waterman & Co.); 1960s - ceramic discs mural from the Swinton School (source: Phillips); signature artist stamp HC. 

  • Birks, Tony, Hans Coper, biography, Stenlake Publishing, 1983 (revised 1991).
  • Birks, Tony, Hans Coper, biography, paperback edition , William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., 1984.
  • Thormann, Olaf, Gefäss / Skulptur - Vessel / Sculpture; Keramik / Ceramics seit / since 1946 Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig, 2013.
  • Simon Thomas, The Essential Potness, Lucie Rie en Hans Coper in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 2014