HOW MARGUERITE FRIEDLAENDER SHAPED THE KPM

The work of BAUHAUS student Marguerite Friedlaender catapulted the KPM into the present - and caused a turnaround in German porcelain history.

Marguerite Friedländer for KPM Berlin

Over a hundred years ago, the Bauhaus revolutionized the design world. It countered the exuberant floral ornamentation of Art Nouveau with something new. They now designed in the New Objectivity style and in the spirit of functionality - timeless, clear and straight-lined houses, furniture made of cool tubular steel, objects in primary colors. There was a creative spirit of optimism. Also at KPM, which was then called the Berlin State Porcelain Manufactory. In 1929, its new director, Günther von Pechmann, began his work as a visionary. The qualified economist and member of the German Werkbund redesigned the product range of the traditional Berlin manufacturer under the slogan “Porcelain for the new apartment”. The porcelain should be able to be combined with each other and thus fit the new architecture, the new type of furnishings and the new needs of modern kitchens.

The Berlin manufacturer was a pioneer in taking completely new conceptual paths. Until then, there had been hardly any sign of the Bauhaus's spirit of optimism in the German porcelain industry. The appearance of plates, cups and tea sets remained traditional even into the 1920s. When it came to porcelain, it was better to stick with the good old ones. Tableware was a status symbol; ornamental relief decorations and floral patterns set the tone almost unbroken.

Günther von Pechmann was looking for a suitable partner for his planned modernization of KPM. Immediately after taking office, he initiated a collaboration with Burg Giebichenstein in Halle, an arts and crafts school where primarily former Bauhaus students taught - such as Marguerite Friedlaender.

The daughter of a Jewish-German silk manufacturer and an English woman had completed her training at the state-run Bauhaus and then worked with Gerhard Marcks and Max Krehan in the associated ceramics workshop in Dornburg.

In 1925 she moved with Marcks to Giebichenstein Castle, where she took over the ceramics class, the only woman in Germany in such a position at the time.

In 1929, the then 33-year-old was put in charge of the newly founded Burg porcelain workshop, which was intended to be an artistic test laboratory for the industry. Craftsmanship and art should - in the spirit of the Bauhaus - merge with each other

be serially produced. At the same time, the cooperation with KPM began. Günther von Pechmann commissioned Marguerite Friedlaender to design modern and contemporary tableware. After just a few months she presented the first designs of the pure white, undecorated coffee and mocha service HALLE'SCHE FORM. The cylindrical jug with a straight spout was particularly striking.

In just under two years, a tea service was added to the HALLE'SCHE FORM series, so delicate that the KPM trademark, the blue scepter, shimmered through the bottom of the cup. This was followed by the “Burg Giebichenstein” dinner service, the “Hermes” restaurant tableware for Halle/Leipzig Airport and numerous series of vases, including her HALLE vase – conical at the top, bulbous at the bottom. The designs for Friedlaender's “Airplane Cup”, in which the mirror surface is cut out in the lower shell so that the cup can stand securely even in turbulence, was created in 1932 and was produced until 1935.

Friedlaender designed based on geometric shapes and straight lines. She put her models together like an architect. But she never denied her ceramic origins. Her designs do not appear constructed, but rather, as is usual with turning technology, staged.

KPM HALLE vases

In close collaboration with KPM, Friedlaender changed her models and adapted them to the production conditions for serial production. Their work was groundbreaking for the entire German porcelain industry. Her work was praised in the Weimar Republic as the epitome of innovative, radically objective ceramics.

But despite her success and work, the avant-gardist Friedlaender never achieved the level of fame of her colleague Trude Petri, who at the same time was employed as a porcelain designer at KPM and, shortly after Friedlaender's “Hallescher Form”, designed the URBINO tableware, which was also pure white and undecorated.

This may be due, among other things, to the fact that Petri's models in the New Objectivity style were sometimes even more radical. Furthermore, Friedlaender never sought publicity: “Publicity, fame and limelight are as fleeting as clouds, but a good vessel will last for centuries,” she wrote in her 1973 autobiography.

In 1933, Friedlaender learned how quickly fame can fade. When the National Socialists came to power, her career as a porcelain designer in Germany came to an abrupt end. As a Jew, the mayor of Halle personally suggested that she resign from her teaching position at Giebichenstein Castle. With her husband, the ceramist and Bauhaus student Franz Rudolf Wildenhain, she went to the Netherlands and opened a small but successful pottery studio. In 1940 she emigrated alone to the USA. When she was invited shortly afterwards by a board member of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the butler served tea in her own KPM service - which no one except Friedlaender knew.

Friedlaender later moved to California, taught at colleges, and joined a colony of artists working on a remote farm. When her husband followed her to the United States a few years later, the marriage quickly fell apart. And the artists' colony also fell apart a short time later. Friedlaender stayed alone on the farm, offered courses for young ceramists there in the summer - and enjoyed the solitude in the rest of the time.

She died in 1985 at the age of 89 - without fame or limelight. But some of Friedlaender's designs for the KPM, such as the HALLE vase series and her HALLE'SCHE FORM mocha service, have survived and are still produced today.

The HALLE vases

This text first appeared by Sandra Winkler in our 2nd customer magazine WEISS. The images come from the KPM archive.