For all that the annual Leipzig Grassimesse is and always has been as a sales fair, a place to peruse, discourse with and purchase, contemporary craft, applied art and design, and thereby an opportunity to support contemporary craft, applied art and design practitioners, or perhaps more accurately an opportunity to support those practitioners whose practice you most enjoy, it has also always been a platform for creative schools and their students to present their works and approaches and positions; the inaugural Grassimesse in 1920 featuring students from the Staatliche Kunstschule für Textilindustrie Plauen, the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, the Kunstgewerbeschule Magdeburg, the Kunstgewerbeschule Nürnberg and the Handwerker- und Kunstgewerbeschule Halle, the latter an institution who in their various guises since 1920 have been more or less ever presents at the Grassimesse.
And will be present at the 2023 Grassimesse where, as Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule, Halle, they will present current projects alongside students from the Kunsthochschule Weißensee Berlin, the Universität der Künste Berlin, HAWK Hildesheim, the Hochschule Wismar, the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart and the Alchimia Contemporary Jewellery School, Florence.
Yet for all that schools have always been a pillar on which the Grassimesse stands, they are one that can be all too easily overlooked amidst the perusing, discoursing and purchasing. Thus ahead of the 2023 edition by way of helping reinforce that the Grassimesse is more than the selected exhibitors and their works, we thought we’d take a brief moment to reflect on some of those schools who’ve graced the halls of the Grassi Museum, and thereby allow for reflections on both the (hi)story of creative education and also on the Grassimesse as a platform for schools and a coming generation of creatives as much as one for those creatives currently practising…….
Instigated by Dr Richard Graul the, then Director of the, then, Leipzig Kunstgewerbemuseum, the Grassimesse1 was conceived as a platform for supporting and advancing applied arts against the background of the increasing influence of industry in and on the production of objects of daily use, and also in context of the increasing globalisation of European trade in the early 20th century, but for all as a platform for promoting the production and consumption of higher quality objects of daily use than, in the opinion of Dr Graul and a great many others, the increasingly inferior quality objects presented and promoted at the biannual Leipzig Fair at that period.
A desire to raise the quality of contemporary objects of daily use that was also understood to require increasing the quality of creative education, another very active discussion in the first decades of the 20th century: for all that the popular focus on the first decades of the 20th century from our perspective in the first decades of the 21st century invariably falls on the Bauhauses, the first decades of the 20th century were a period of flux and dynamism in context of creative eduction, one authored by innumerable, schools, creatives and educators. An age of activity and development in creative eduction necessitated not least by contemporaneous developments in terms of the technology via which, and the materials from which, goods of daily use were produced, and the associated discourse on how, who, should design them. Indeed the fact they were ‘designed’ being in itself a novum of the period: previously craftsfolks had made objects, before the rise of industrialisation in the late 19th century increasingly saw artists and architects take up the form-giving process and ultimately designers take over from the artists/architects and employing more integrated, holistic processes that considered more than just the formal aspects.
A process of development in the production and provision of our objects of daily use, and of the associated renewal and development in creative education, that can be understood, gleaned, from the roster of interesting, important and informative schools who presented their works and approaches and positions in Leipzig between 1920 and 1941. A roster that includes, and amongst a great, great, many others, the likes of, and in no particular order:
Born in Chemnitz in 1881 Margarete Naumann is…. is an individual to whom we will return at a later date, her biography, relevance and informativeness going as they do far beyond the bounds of the subject at hand, and content ourselves here with briefly noting her contribution to the development of creative eduction. A contribution that arose from, amongst other sources, a firm belief that the future of the textile industry in Sachsen was dependent on new approaches to training, from a firm belief that the existing eduction methods were unsuited not only for the new realities but for the development of the talents of the students, students who had grown up in a world very different from that experienced by generations before them and who thus were very different characters in need of very different nurturing for the world they were familiar with and would inherent; and firm beliefs Naumann shared with Professor Albert Forkel the, then, Director of the, then, Königliche Kunstschule für Textilindustrie Plauen, who in 1914 hired Naumann as a lecturer in the, then obligatory, Women’s Department. But beliefs not shared by the majority of the school’s staff, nor indeed the majority of the local Vogtland and Erzgebirge textile industry, who were, generally, very much in favour of the established practices, and for all on education as a service to industry not to the individual student as Forkel and Naumann, arguably, understood it. Resistance to Naumann, and Forkel, that led to Naumann leaving the Women’s Department in 1917, although she did continue to teach at the school’s branches in Annaberg and Eibenstock, appearing with her students from the later at the inaugural Grassimesse in 1920, alongside Forkel’s students from Plauen, before finally parting ways with the, then, Staatliche Kunstschule für Textilindustrie in 1921.
A parting of ways partly influenced by the hostility to Naumann’s positions, partly influenced by the death of Albert Forkel, but primarily associated with Naumann being appointed in 1921 to the position of head of the newly formed Textiles Department within the so-called Submissionsamt — Submissions Office — an institution that, as far as we can ascertain, was exclusive to Sachsen, where, ‘Submission‘ is to be understood as ‘tender’, and an office who provided assistance and support to companies and groups of professionals applying for public contracts; and whose Textiles Department was in addition a school under Naumann’s direction, a school known as Margaretentechnik, that practised a pedagogic method known as Margaretentechnik.
A pedagogic method, a creative eduction concept which, and summarising more than is prudent, but which very pressing restrictions of time and space demand, rather than the established practice of copying the existing, set its focus on the free and individual development of each and every student through processes of experimentation, exploration, imagination, creativity, and also experience, Naumann deliberately setting younger students alongside older practitioners in a collective, communal, discursive, space rather than employing the structured, formal drill of the classroom. And a teaching process that employed as a central component of its approach the creation of paper models; a folding, twisting, forming of paper by students into apparently random shapes that in the course of the early 20th century became ever more practised in design education and remains today a key component of the elementary first year course at a great many design schools. But which, arguably, found in its first regular use in the teaching method of Margarete Naumann.
And a novel method of teaching that, by all accounts, saw Walter Gropius not once but twice offer Margarete Naumann the position of head of the weaving workshop at Bauhaus Weimar. Naumann turning down both offers. An indication of her confidence in her own path and her ability to follow it as she wished. See also her struggles in Plauen.
The students at and off the Margaretentechnik presented their works at the Grassimesse between 1922 and 1924, the end of their participation aligning with the end of the Margaretentechnik as a school as a result of differences of opinion between Naumann and the authorities over the nature and scope of a reorganisation of the Textile Department. But not the end of Margarete Naumann’s association with the Grassi Museum; in the summer of 1925 the institution hosted an exhibition by Naumann of her tenure at the Submissionsamt and the works realised, something that, one presumes, and hopes, wouldn’t have been undertaken had the museum not been open to Naumann’s approach and positions. And Margarete Naumann also made irregular appearances at the Grassimesse with her own works throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
But where is Margarete Naumann in contemporary discussions on creative eduction in the early 20th century?
Established in 1919 near Fulda by Hedwig von Rohden and Louise Langgaard as a school for, as its title tends to imply, Körperbildung, Landbau and Handwerk — Physical Education, Agriculture and Crafts — the Loheland-Schule was very much an expression of the so-called Reform Movement of the period, those, for want of a better description, proto-hippies with their criticisms, and distrusts, of contemporary industry and their searching for ways of life more atuned with the human spirit and with nature, the later attested to by the practising of biodynamic agriculture at Loheland, itself a nod to the importance of Rudolf Steiner in and to the Reform Movement. And a school that was also very much part of the Women’s Rights movement of the period: 1919 being the year women in Germany were not only granted universal franchise but also were granted the right to uninhibited access to education; and not only was Loheland established by two females but was a female only institution, and thus stands very much in contrast to the famously female resistant institution established in Weimar in 1919.
From the triumvirate of its title inarguably the most important for the school, and for its understanding of itself, was the Physical Education as expressed through expressive dance and the so-called Loheland Gymnastics a form of physical and personal training very akin to the Eurythmy that, as previously noted, Le Corbusier’s brother, Albert, practised and taught a variation of for the greater part of his career; and physical exercise as a key component of personality building that was very much a central plank of the Reform Movement. While in terms of the school as an education institute alongside being a personal development institute the Craft of the name, was, arguably, decisive: Loheland operating over the years a weaving workshop, a tailoring workshop, a carpentry workshop, a leather workshop, a pottery workshop, a basket weaving workshop and photo studio, the juxtaposition of the latter two highlighting the complexities of the period. Workshops whose operation was, as befits a Reformist institution, very much based on the novel, human-centred, individual orientated, ideas and approaches of the likes of Pestalozzi, Fröbel or Montessori; and Loheland workshops who premiered in Leipzig at the 1928 autumn Grassimesse and remained a regular feature until the last pre-War Grassimesse in 1941. Whereby their presence in the later years of the 1930s does very much tend to focus attention not only the school’s relationships with the NSDAP, but with the more general relationships between the esoteric of the Reform Movement and the rise of the NSDAP. Considerations which are important, as are those of the influence of Mazdaznan on the Weimar Bauhaus, but shouldn’t detract from the interesting and informative contribution of Loheland to the discourses and discussions on creative eduction, and relationships with our objects of daily use, including their production and form/function relationships, in the early decades of the 20th century.
But where is the Loheland-Schule für Körperbildung, Landbau und Handwerk in discussions on creative eduction in the early 20th century?
“The arts and crafts school of tomorrow must be an ‘industrial school’. That handicrafts are being absorbed by industry is a fact that we can no longer ignore”2, opined Albert Reimann in 1932, an opinion which in its basis (partially) in the reality of the rise in the early years of the 20th century of “department stores and commercial groups” is very telling of how the production and provision of our objects of daily use is not only a question of technical, creative or political developments but also a question of economic developments, of how and by whom they are traded. As is, one can extrapolate, the nature of design education a component of economic realities as much as any other development in society. Or was in the early decades of the 20th century, if that is the case today is a matter for another post. And an opinion by Albert Reimann on the future of creative education based on, at that point, some 30 years in creative eduction, arguably 30 years at the forefront of creative eduction.
Born in Gniezno, Poland, then Gnesen, Prussia, in 1874 Albert Reimann trained as cabinet maker and opened his first education institute in Berlin in 1902, essentially, as Swantje Kuhfuss-Wickenheiser opines3, by way of training staff to work in his own atelier; but an institution which quickly became a more general creative school. A school which, by all accounts, was freely open to female students, and that in an age before females were generally admitted to education facilities in Prussia; a school which placed applied art and fine art on the same level, and that as, arguably, one of the first; a school with workshops to combine theory and practice, to combine craft and art and design, to allow the students to learn by doing rather than by rote, and that as one of the earliest schools to introduce workshops; a school that in 1930 boasted of some 990 students, including 350 non-Germans, making it one of, when not the, largest private creative schools in the Germany of that period.
And a Reimann school who premiered at the autumn 1927 Grassimesse and who were ever presents until the spring 1936 edition; the year in which on account of Albert Reimann’s Jewish ancestry, and his increasing problems with the NSDAP authorities and their racist laws, he sold the school to Hugo Häring, one of those all to often overlooked Modernist influenced architects of the 1920s and 30s, and who continued to present the school at the Grassimesse, albeit under the new name Kunst und Werk. Private Schule für Gestaltung, and one presumes without the Jewish and non-Germanic students, until the pre-War Grassimessen ended in 1941.
But where is the Reimann Schule in discussions on creative eduction in the early 20th century?
We have long been under the impression that Bauhaus Weimar never attended the Grassimesse, how wrong we were: they presented ceramics and textiles at the spring 1924 Grassimesse and furniture, metalwork, toys, ceramics and textiles at the autumn 1924 edition, whereby the year is not irrelevant: in the summer of 1923 Bauhaus staged their first exhibition in Weimar, the first general show of what the school had achieved in it first four years, the first wide ranging public show of the school’s positions and approaches, and it is to be expected that much of that displayed in Weimar in the summer of 1923 would also have been on display in the 1924 Grassimessen, making the Grassimesse, arguably, the first place outside Weimar where the works of the (now fabled) Bauhaus Weimar workshops were widely presented; and therefore the spring 1924 Grassimesse arguably marking the first presentation of the objects from the Haus am Horn, that first public expression of the Bauhäusler’s position to architecture, interiors, furnishings, fittings and objects of daily use, outside Weimar. Thus tending to imply the presence at the Grassimesse as part of the school’s general promotion, a promotion Gropius was very good at, and thereby tending to underscore the relevance of the Grassimesse at that period.
1924 also being Bauhaus’s last full year in Weimar, and thus the school’s only appearances at the Grassimesse, or at least the only appearance of the complete school: in 1925 the school was represented by the Smyrna rugs of Agnes Roghe, a student who had also contributed rugs for Haus am Horn and is one of those great many Bauhäusler who have since drifted into a near total anonymity.
Similarly brief, and interesting and informative, was and were the appearances of the Dessau incarnation of Bauhaus at the Grassimesse: having presented at the spring 1926 edition examples of wooden toys, interior decoration, children’s furniture, handcrafts, metal goods and weaving, and thus a presentation a little under a year after the start of teaching in Dessau, and but a few months after the official opening of the new workshops in the new Dessau building, and thus a presentation which, potentially, can be seen as, again, a promotional presentation by Gropius, they were then absent until 1929 when they appeared with textiles only, an indication, one can argue, of the importance of the weaving workshop and also of the increasing financial problems of the late 1920s. The weaving workshop being as it was the only commercially successful workshop. And returning, for a final time, in 1931, but fascinatingly not as Bauhaus Dessau: rather, as a contributor, a designer, on the stand of Berlin based home textile manufacture Polytex under the artistic direction of Bruno Paul, a rare direct connection between Bauhaus and a Bruno Paul who was not only an important educator in the early 20th century, but an important early influence of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who in autumn 1930 had taken on the role of third and final Bauhaus Director. And a final visit by Bauhaus to the Grassimesse not in their own right but as a partner of a manufacturer that allows for differentiated reflections on the institution’s final years.
But where is Bauhaus in discussions on creative eduction in the early 20th century?
Following Bauhaus’s enforced departure from Weimar a new school was established in the town, the Staatlichen Hochschule für Handwerk und Baukunst, a.k.a the Bauhochschule. A school that very much maintained the handwork focus of the early Bauhaus Weimar, a maintenance very much to be understood in context of the machine versus hand debate of the period, and whose teaching staff featured numerous handwork orientated ex-Bauhäusler including, for example, Otto Lindig, Erich Dieckmann or Wilhelm Wagenfeld. Or at least did until 1930 when the NSDAP sympathiser Paul Schultze-Naumburg replaced Otto Bartning as Director, and who as director both took the school down an ideological dead-end and oversaw the departure of the likes of Lindig, Dieckmann or Wagenfeld. And a school that for all its handwork focus was very active in the modernist, future focussed, discourses of the period, including Erich Dieckmann furnishing one of the apartments of Mies van der Rohe’s contribution to the 1927 Weissenhofsiedlung, Stuttgart, building exhibition with his Typenmöbel – essentially a furniture programme – a Typenmöbel concept highly indicative of the new ways of thinking about furniture at that period, the new approaches to designing furniture propagated at that period, and thereby novel methods of furnishing homes deemed appropriate for the realities of the day.
And Typenmöbel by Dieckmann presented by the Bauhochschule at the spring 1929 Grassimesse, and again at the autumn 1929 and spring 1930 editions when it was joined by metalware, hand-woven fabrics, ceramics and lighting, the latter being the work of Wagenfeld. And although the same genres of objects were presented at the autumn 1930 and spring 1931 editions, they telling weren’t presented as the Bauhochschule but as Weimar Bau- und Wohnungskunst GmbH, i.e. the commercial arm of the school established to market and sell works by the likes of Lindig, Dieckmann or Wagenfeld, and arguably one of the earliest, for want of a better phrase, design labels. And a platform that reminds that creative schools at that period were invariably reliant on commercial income in order to operate, see also Bauhaus Dessau, a reality that today in our age of much more conceptual schools is almost unthinkable. And an absence of the Weimar Bauhochschule from the Grassimesse from 1931 onwards that is unquestionably related to the person of Schultze-Naumburg. However for all the relative brevity of the school, it stands as important chapter in the development of designing thing and design education in the inter-War period.
But where is the Bauhochschule Weimar in discussions on creative education in the early 20th century?
Arising, slowly, in the course of the late 19th century from the, then, Architecture Department of the, then, Königliches Polytechnikum, the Staatliche Kunstgewerbeschule Stuttgart, effectively first became a visible entity in 1901 as the Königliche Kunstgewerbliche Lehr- und Versuchswerkstätte — Royal Arts and Crafts Training and Experimental Workshops — under the directorship of Bernhard Pankok, one of those regularly overlooked creatives of the late 19th/early 20th centuries, but, certainly looking back on then from now, no exhibition at the turn of the centuries was complete without Bernhard Pankok, he was regularly featured in the media of the day, and cooperated with numerous important furniture, lighting and interior manufacturers, and also designed furniture for the earliest Zeppelins, albeit, and very interestingly, not from aluminium, but that’s a subject for another day.
And was also an important and influential educator; an eduction career almost exclusively followed in Stuttgart and which saw Pankok, as the title of the 1901 institution implies, establish a number of workshops in Stuttgart including, for example, a carpentry workshop, a metal workshop, a ceramics workshop, a book printing workshop, and of course the obligatory Women’s Department which opened in 1913, and that, as with Reimann in Berlin, as one of the first schools to go down such a workshop lined path; a path that within a few short years would be standard, and which still very much exists in design education, if often in slightly different contexts.
The Staatliche Kunstgewerbeschule Stuttgart premiered at the autumn 1928 Grassimesse and were a regular feature until 1931. And will return, more or less, in 2023 when it’s contemporary successor institute, or perhaps more accurately that institute which arose from a series of mergers of creative education institutes, the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart will be represented via works by students from the ceramics workshop under the direction of Jong Hyun Park. And thus students from one of those workshops established by Bernhard Pankok.
But where is the Staatliche Kunstgewerbeschule Stuttgart in discussions on creative eduction in the early 20th century?
No school can claim such a long association with the Grassimesse as (the now) Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule, Halle; and while, yes, that association is all to easy to locate in the geographic proximity of the two institutions and also on the the longevity of the school, on the fact that Burg is one of the few progressive, reformist schools of the first third of the 20th century to have survived the trials and tribulations of the latter two-thirds of the 20th century, such shouldn’t be allowed to distract from either the length of the association, or the close relationship between Grassimesse and Burg. A relationship that includes a Grassimesse prize specifically for, what the jury in its subjective understandings considers to be, the best Burg graduation project of that year.
Or indeed be allowed to distract from the place Burg Halle invariably has in the (hi)story of the development of the Grassimesse, and the place the Grassimesse has in the development of Burg Halle; the two having travelled, in a dialogue with another, from the early 20th century when the school’s influential, defining, director Paul Thiersch was an important contemporary, and supporter, and rival, of Richard Graul, over the 1920s and 1930s, through the years of Fascism, War, DDR and the re-building and development of creative practice and education in the north eastern corner of the contemporary Germany since 1989.
And a (hi)story of the Burg Halle, a contribution of Burg Halle to the development of design education over the past century and bit, that we (briefly) discussed in context of the 2015 exhibition Moderne in der Werkstatt – 100 Years Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle at the Kunstmuseum Moritzburg, Halle, and a subject to which we will return. Alone hear taking the opportunity to note that from the other school’s participating at the 2023 Grassimesse Prof. Barbara Schmidt from the Kunsthochschule Weißensee and Prof. Stephan Schulz from the Hochschule Wismar both have a strong Burg connection and biography.
But where is Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle in discussions on creative eduction in the early 20th century?
And for all, where is the Grassimesse in discussions on creative eduction in the early 20th century?
Since the re-start of the Grassimesse in 1997 the institution has hosted numerous international schools, schools representing differing approaches to and understandings of creative eduction, and therefore very much in context of schools at the Grassimesse, of Campus Grassimesse, including Konstfack Stockholm in 2005, the Freie Universität Bozen in 2009 or the Alchimia Jewellery School Florence who were regulars until 2010 and who are returning in 2023.
And a list we’re certain the Grassi Museum would gladly extend. Much as we are certain that for all the Grassimesse will remain a sales fair, it will also remain a campus.
The 2023 Grassimesse will be staged between Friday October 20th and Sunday October 22nd (opening on the evening of Thursday October 19th) at the GRASSI Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Johannisplatz 5-11, 04103 Leipzig.
Full details including information on opening times and ticket prices, and also information on and photos from Grassimessen past, can be found at www.grassimesse.de
And coverage of the 2023 Grassimesse can be found, well….. in these dispatches.
2. Albert Reimann, “Das neue Gesicht der Schule Reiman, Farbe und Form. Mitteilungen der Schule Reimann, Heft 2, 1932 page 25, quoted in Swantje Kuhfuss-Wickenheiser, Die Reimann-Schule in Berlin und London 1902 – 1943, Shaker Media, Aachen 2009
Tagged with: Bauhaus, Bauhaus Dessau, Bauhaus Weimar, Bauhochschule, Burg Giebichenstein, Campus, Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Grassimesse, Halle, Leipzig, Loheland, Loheland-Schule für Körperbildung Landbau und Handwerk, Margaretentechnik, Reimann Schule, Staatliche Kunstgewerbeschule Stuttgart, Staatlichen Hochschule für Handwerk und Baukunst