Jean Rivier was trained as potter in the 1940s under Emilie Decanis in Aix-en-Provence. In 1952, he moved to Vallauris, a French town with an iconic art and ceramics community, and set up his own pottery. In addition, Rivier took on foreign students and taught at the Centre d’Art Mediterranée. Until their separation, he collaborated with his wife Juliette Derel, and from 1961 worked with his second wife Claude Rivier. Rivier’s work exhibits a penchant for highly graphic motifs that often relate to Amerindian art, prehistoric North African cave art or the graffiti made fashionable by Art Brut. He engraved these decorations by hand in raw slip on biscuit, or unfired ceramic, which he then fired in clear flame. The innovative combination of these bold designs with traditional kitchenware forms produced striking results. Rivier exhibited his pottery in all of the acclaimed exhibitions at Vallauris’s Nérolium Hall from 1952 to 1968. He also showed at the Sarrebrücken (1953), the exhibition “Arts Plastiques” with Picasso and Pignon (1954), the Cannes International Ceramics Exhibition (1955), “Les Grès Contemporains” at Sèvres’ Musée National de Céramique (1963), the Maison des Métiers d’Art, Paris (1964), and the International Exhibition of Ceramics at the Cantini Museum in Marseilles (1965). More recently, Rivier was one of ten French potters chosen for the exhibition “Europaïsche Keramik seit 1950,” held in Hamburg at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in 1979. As attests this exhibition history, Rivier strongly advocated pottery as an important art form, and, with Robert Pérot, founded the Union des Arts Plastiques so that painters, sculptors, engravers, and decorators could exhibit their work together. In 1968, Rivier left Vallauris for a teaching position in the pottery department at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Tours, where he taught until 1974. Today, Rivier devotes his time to painting and illustration.
Pierre Staudenmeyer, La Céramique française des années 50 (Paris: Norma, 2001), 272-275.