Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg


Women Designers at the Deutschen Werkstätten Hellerau 1898 to 1938

17.5.19 - 18.8.19

With the founding of the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau in 1898, Dresden joined Munich as a centre of the international reform movement, especially with respect to innovative design. The opening was duly noted, but what was largely unknown was that the Deutsche Werkstätten were also open to women as artistic collaborators, unusual for the turn of the century. It is largely thanks to Karl Schmidt’s (1873–1948) commitment to the reform movement that, immediately after he founded his enterprise, a large number of women were enlisted as designers, with their products marketed under their own names. Against Invisibility. Women Designers at the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau 1898 to 1938 presents on the occasion of 100 Years of Bauhaus for the first time 18 women designers and a product photographer who worked for the Deutsche Werkstätten in the early 20th century. The exhibition, which will be on view at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) from 17 May 2019, brings to light designers who have been forgotten over the years despite their busy design and teaching activities, numerous exhibitions, and successful participation in competitions. These were women who worked as furniture designers, although often trained only as drawing teachers –in general at this time without a university entrance qualification. Women who disrupted traditional social roles and gained new autonomy and self-determination in their everyday professional and social lives by pursuing a field previously reserved for men. Women who not only made a vital contribution to the success of the fledgling workshops but also decisively advanced the reform movement in Germany. The exhibition Against Invisibility. Women Designers at the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau 1898 to 1938 is organized by the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.


The women were described using 27 different job titles, as graphic designer, sculptor, furniture designer, interior designer, draftswomen, or textile designer – an attempt to do justice to their myriad activities and talents. Today we would classify them as freelance designers who worked in a variety of materials and for various clients. The exhibition demonstrates the broad spectrum covered by the products created by three generations of female designers at the Deutsche Werkstätten. In addition to design drawings that provide insights into the creative process, more than 270 works will be on view, many of them being shown to the public for the first time. The considerable range of furniture, textiles, and wallpaper, as well as toys and containers, gives us a fresh view of the period between 1898 and 1938. This exhibition with its in-depth examination of the Deutsche Werkstätten and its designers thus adds a key chapter to the history of modern design. A different, more “moderate” brand of modernism can be experienced here, one that has been unjustifiably side-lined by the more prominent history of the Bauhaus.


Just as diverse as their products were the biographies of these women. On a second, “archive,” level, the exhibition traces the careers and networks as well as the private lives of the designers for the first time based on letters, photographs, and testimonies. In addition, a number of magazines, academic publications, and exhibition documentation help visitors to reconstruct how the designers were perceived at the beginning of the 20th century, to delve even deeper into the period, and to ask themselves: How could these women become so invisible?


Image 1: Unbekannt, Porträt Margaret Leischner, 1927-1928, Acetatfilm, Repronegativ, 6 x 9 cm, © unbekannt, Foto: Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin

Image 2: Ausstellungsansicht 2, Foto: MKG

Image 3: Unbekannt, Porträt Gertrud Kleinhempel, um 1905, Papierabzug, 11 x 12 cm, Historisches Museum Bielefeld, © Historisches Museum Bielefeld

Image 4: Schülerinnenklasse von Prof. Margarete Junge an der Kunstgewerbeschule Dresden, 1911 © Archiv der Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden, Bestand Bildarchiv, Sign. 08.01/00015

Image 5: Marie von Geldern-Egmond (1875–1970), Polsterstuhl, um 1905, Hersteller: Dresdner Werkstätten für Handwerkskunst, Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Sachsen, Dauerleihgabe SKD, Kunstgewerbemuseum, © SKD, Foto: Robert Vanis

Other Exhibitions

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg


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