Grassimesse Leipzig 1920 Compact: Elisabeth von Baczko – Interior Design and Furniture

Chairs by Elisabeth von Baczko realised by Korbmacher Kapsch, Bremen

Chairs by Elisabeth von Baczko realised by Korbmacher Kapsch, Bremen

Just a few short years ago Dr. Karl Schaefer, the new Director of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, opined that furniture and interior design required “a clear, well-disciplined architectural appreciation for the corporeal and its dimensions, for the tectonic and for the material, a certain dryness and an unapologetic sincerity” and for all “penetrating, deliberative understanding more than unbridled fantasy”, continuing that, “the main recommendation of E. von Baczko’s work lies precisely in this unerring objectivity of perception”.1

Born in Mainz on 11th January 1868 Elisabeth von Baczko joined, in the mid-1890s, the Saalecker Werkstätten of Paul Schultze-Naumburg, one of the smaller if no less influential Werkstätten to have become established in recent decades, for all in context of the increasing interest amongst architects and artists for designing the furniture once produced by carpenters and cabinet-makers; if a Paul Schultze-Naumburg who in the very near future will tangent off in a distinctly less than positive political direction. As will a great many others.

In 1905 Elisabeth von Baczko moved from Saaleck to Bremen where she not only concerned herself with advancing the cause of women in society and politics but was also active as a furniture and interior designer. In context of the latter developing and realising projects such as, and amongst others, a children’s home in the city’s Mainstraße, a project, by all accounts, very much in context of contemporary positions on functional furniture appropriate for the proportions and idiosyncrasies and fantasies of children but also in context of bright, joyful colours as opposed to the ubiquitous beige that for so long was considered appropriate for children’s spaces, and also developing the wards, children’s rooms and nurses’ rooms of the Vereinskrankenhaus zum Roten Kreuz in Bremen, one of the novel communal hospitals currently appearing ever more in Europe, and rooms of which Dr. Albert Mundt opined, “there is an all-prevailing atmosphere of bright and healthy cleanliness and harmonious peace”.2 Which sounds very much like what is needed in a hospital.

While in context of the former Elisabeth von Baczko has been closely associated for a great many years with the Munich & Bremen based Vereinigte Werkstätten für Kunst im Handwerk, a Werkstatt with a marginally more progressive position than that of Schultze-Naumburg’s Saalecker, a difference, and a switch in allegiances, arguably indicative of a shift in recent years of von Baczko’s approach and positions, shifts arguably associated with her move to Bremen; and a Vereinigte Werkstätten who not only produced van Baczko’s designs for projects such as the Bremen children’s home, but with whom von Baczko has developed numerous highly regarded collections. While, and on a more personal note, one of the highlights for us of von Baczko’s oeuvre has long been the basketry chairs realised for von Baczko by Bremen based Korbmacher Kapsch, works which feature a seat reminiscent of a concave lens, a seat form that is a regular feature in von Baczko’s oeuvre, albeit taken in the basketry chair to an extreme that, for all when combined with the over-dimensional armrests, a wonderful functional observation allowing as they do for a firm hold when standing up, bring an engaging vitality, an animation, to the works. An animation that stirs the imagination of all, young or old.

And furniture works and interior cooperations by Elisabeth von Baczko presented over recent years at events such as, and amongst many others, the 1910 World’s Fair, Brussels, where she received a Bronze Medal; the 1912 exhibition Der Frau in Haus und Beruf, Berlin, that so important but so often overlooked event of the recent past; or the 1914 Wekbund Ausstellung in Cologne where von Baczko presented a bedroom, dressing room and bathroom in the Bremen Oldenburgerhaus and also contributed a Music Salon to the Haus der Frau; a Music Salon commissioned by interior detailing specialists Bohlander & Co., a Bohlander & Co. also represented in Cologne by Henry van de Velde, Bruno Paul and Hermann Muthesius, one notes en passant.

And now at Grassimesse, Leipzig, 1920 where Elisabeth von Baczko presented…….

…….we no know.

Sorry. We can find no record of what Elisabeth von Baczko presented at that inaugural Grassimesse, a lack of detail, a void, that poetically echos, as only a void can echo, the place Elisabeth von Baczko should take in the popular narrative of furniture and interior design (hi)story. But regrettably doesn’t.

Yet despite the lack of the all important details, Elisabeth von Baczko’s presence at the inaugural Grassimesse in the spring of 1920 is testament to not only the relevance attached to the inaugural Grassimesse by creatives of all genres, but to the event’s long standing role in not only the narrative of the development of furniture and interior design, but also in the wider narratives of the development of objects of daily use, craft, applied art and design in context of developments in contemporary society.

A role that, as with the Grassimesse, has continually changed as the contemporary society has changed, and which means that for all the relevance of an Elisabeth von Baczko’s contribution to the debates and discourses of the early 20th century, and her ongoing informativeness to contemporary debates and discourses, Elisabeth von Baczko’s works probably wouldn’t be admitted to Grassimesse 2024.

But yours can.

Regardless of genre.

All you need do, as Elisabeth von Baczko did, is to convince the jury your work is worthy of exhibiting. Whereby von Baczko had to convince first a local Bremen jury under the chairmanship of Erich Kleinhempel, and then the main jury. You need but convince the 2024 Grassimesse jury.

Applications for Grassimesse Leipzig 2024 can be submitted until Wednesday May 15th.

Full details, including details of the six Grassi Prizes up for grabs, a sextet that features the €2,500 smow-Designpreis, can be found at

Good Luck!!

1. Dr. Karl Schaefer, Neue Arbeiten von E. von Baczko, Kunstgewerbeblatt, Vol XX, Nr 11, 1909, page 202

2. Dr. Albert Mundt, Elisabeth von Baczko, Die Kunst. Monatsheft für Freie und Angewandte Kunst, Vol. XV, Nr 7, April 1912 page 338

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