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Call for Papers: Hans Coper symposium

  • Region: All Regions
  • Type: Call for Papers
  • Cost: Free

Hans Coper: new contexts, new approaches

Symposium at Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge

Friday 25th October 2024

In Spring 2026, Kettle’s Yard will stage a major exhibition of the work of studio potter Hans Coper (1920-1981). Coper was born in Chemnitz, Germany and studied textile engineering in Dresden in the late 1930s before emigrating to Britain in 1939. In England in 1940, Coper was arrested as an enemy alien and sent to Canada. He returned in 1941 and afterwards served in the Non-Combatant Corps of the British Army. In 1946 he met fellow émigré Lucie Rie, and began work at her London studio, where he quickly learnt how to create wheel-based pottery. In addition to collaborative and commercial work, both Coper and Rie began to produce work for exhibition. In 1959 Coper moved into a new studio space at Digswell House, near to Welwyn Garden City, which had been converted to artist studios and living spaces by the Digswell Art Trust, set up by Henry Morris (the former Chief Education Officer for Cambridgeshire). During this period, Coper accepted architectural commissions alongside his work for exhibitions.

In 1963 he moved to West London, later settling in Frome, Somerset, where he spent the rest of his life. His work was shown often from the mid-1950s, in London at William Ohly’s Berkeley Gallery and Henry Rothschild’s Primavera Gallery, and in joint exhibitions at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (with Lucie Rie) in 1967, the Victoria & Albert Museum (with Peter Collingwood) in 1969 and the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg (with Lucie Rie) in 1972. Over many decades Coper pursued variations on a small group of forms, summarised by Alison Britton as, ‘thistles, sacks, spades, pestles, hourglasses, arrowheads, axheads, eggs and buds’. Larger commissions include monumental candlesticks for Coventry Cathedral. Coper taught at the Camberwell School of Art from 1961, and at the Royal College of Art from 1966, where his students included Alison Britton, Elizabeth Fritsch and Jacqueline Poncelet. Coper’s wife, the photographer Jane (née Gate) (1932-2022) documented their life together from the mid-1950s onwards, recording the processes and environments in which she and Coper worked in Digswell, London and Frome.

For this one-day symposium convened by Dr Inga Fraser and Naomi Polonsky we invite proposals for 20-minute papers on the work of Hans Coper in its broadest contexts: engaging art and design histories, exhibition and curatorial histories, social and political contexts, histories of education and pedagogy, and the responses of contemporary practitioners.

Possible subjects and approaches include:

  • The contribution of Hans Coper and other Central and Eastern European artists migrating to Britain before and during the Second World War.
  • The role of collaboration in art and design practice with reference to the work of Hans Coper.
  • Tensions and harmonies between commercial and non-commercial practices for studio potters.
  • The role and significance of dealers, galleries and collectors in promoting new approaches to

    studio pottery in the post-war period.

  • The relationship between pottery and sculpture or other art media 1939-1980.
  • Artist communities and studio practices 1939-1980 for Hans Coper and his peers.
  • Ceramics and architecture in the post-war period.
  • Anthropomorphic tendencies in ceramics.
  • Materials and processes – their nature and meanings in the work of Hans Coper.
  • References in the work of Hans Coper and his peers to Cycladic pottery and other ancient

    works of art and their sources.

  • The role of photography in documenting, interpreting and promoting the work of Hans Coper.
  • The significance of UK and international exhibitions in shaping the reputation of Hans Coper.
  • The changing critical reception of Hans Coper’s work in the UK and internationally.
  • Approaches to teaching ceramics at the Camberwell School of Art and the Royal College of Art,

    and further afield in Hans Coper’s lifetime.

  • The legacy of Hans Coper in the work of later artists and ceramicists.
  • New responses to the work of Hans Coper by contemporary artists and ceramicists.

To submit a proposal, please send a 250-word abstract and 100-word bio to Naomi Polonsky np505@cam.ac.uk by 5pm, 28 July 2024.

Successful applicants will be notified by 1 August 2024.

Speakers will receive an honorarium of £100, and standard class travel and accommodation costs within the UK will be reimbursed.

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