Marianne Brandt

Natasha Knight

Marianne Brandt Portrait

An artist born in the late 19th century, Marianne Brandt was a woman ahead of her time. Brandt was a painter, photographer, sculptor, metal worker, and designer in Europe. She is best known for her metal works, but she was a designer of other skills. Not only should she be taught in the history of design, but also fine art subjects, metal work, and interior design. Even through the struggles of working through the beginning of women’s suffrage, Brandt managed to beat the game and still has recognizable pieces that are admired and being sold today. She brought a delicate and unique touch to the rising industrial style. Her pieces made such an impact on history, her designs are still featured as timeless designs throughout households. Her modern metal pieces encapture the aesthetic of the industrial time period. Because of the advancements she made in the feminist movement and her admired work, she should be well included in women’s history, design history, and craftsmanship history.

Bauhaus Weimar

Brandt began her education at the Weimar Saxon Grand Ducal Art School in 1911. At the young age of 18, she studied painting and sculpture for just over six years. Brandt studied painting under artists, Fritz Mackensen, an artist known for his land and sea based oil paintings, and Robert Weise, an artist known for his portrait and still life paintings. During the early 1900’s, things like architecture, sculpture, painting, carving, and metalwork were all considered to be a man’s job. Although there was some resistance, Brandt pushed to study the fields that women weren’t exactly welcome into yet. Although a lot of schools pushed the idea of fairness and equality opportunities, there was still a strong gender bias. Brandt continued to work on the subjects that interested her and her devotion began to show. After she was done at the Weimar Saxon Grand Ducal Art School, she worked as a freelance artist. Although she created a lot of pieces of work, she mostly went that route just to pay her bills.

In 1923, she attended the Bauhaus school of art. The original Bauhaus was founded in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius; he had the intention of bringing multiple forms of art together for study and education. The school quickly became famous for its approach to design, which strived to integrate the pieces of mass production with artistic aesthetics. Under these circumstances, Brandt bloomed into her career. Even though the Bauhaus advertised that “any person of good repute, without regard to age or sex” was welcome into the school, there was still a bit of an equality battle. Brandt was determined to develop her skills as a craftsman and her determination and commitment to the trade paid off. László Moholy-Nagy, the studio director for the metal shop at Bauhaus, noticed Brandt’s skills and efforts and opened a spot for her in the metal shop. She excelled so much during that time, she moved on to take over Moholy-Nagy’s position as the studio director in 1928. She was the first woman to have a position at the metal shop, and she was also the first woman to have that career position. Despite the people working against her, she rose to the top in her career.

Poster for Women’s Suffrage in Germany

The people that know of Marianne Brandt would definitely consider her a feminist icon. In the early 1900’s, it was a time period where women couldn’t access public education. Although the Bauhaus had stigma when it came to treating genders equally, it was impressive to even see a school accepting women. Technically women were allowed to study at the school, but their study options were very limited. Brandt broke the barrier and not only became the first woman to get into a male dominated field, but also became the first woman to take over the department.

Women of the Bauhaus were confined to more feminine work, like textiles and weaving. Men, however, were encouraged to go the route of architecture, sculpting, and painting. Since women were allowed to attend the school, the majority of the students were women, but the Bauhaus movement was iterated by men. Nearly a century later, people have recognized that a lot of the popular works representing the movement were created and manufactured by the female students of Bauhaus. Including Marianne Brandt, some forgotten Bauhaus artists are: Gunta Stolzl, a designer that led the weaving department for five years, Anni Albers, a weaver who soon came to teach at a college in the United States, Benita Koch-Otte, an influential weaver from Germany, Otti Berger, a weaver who was murdered in Auschwitz, Gertrude Arndt, a self taught photographer, Alma Siedhoff-Buscher, a woodworker for children’s toys, and Margarate Heymann, a ceramic artist who taught at multiple schools. Brandt’s designs have left an impact on the industrial and modern arts, all while remaining as functional pieces to this day. She was not only a feminism representative, but she also has work that is still being recognized and sold today.

In 1918, Germany granted suffrage to women at a national level. The Bauhaus movement was when women were truly being recognized in the history of art. With school acceptance of both genders and the wars happening worldwide, this era was starting to let the light shine down on women. With the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II, there was an acceptance that women would have to enter the workforce. Men weren’t exactly on board with the idea of seeing women as their profession equals, but when so many were being shipped overseas (and killed) they had to accept the fact that women were going to be in real career fields if their countries wanted to succeed.

Thanks to the Nazi Party, World War II influenced the shut down of the Bauhaus.

Brandt began her education just a few years before World War I. As mentioned before, the wars influenced women joining the workforce. Men were being shipped off to fight for their countries and someone had to take on their position while the war was happening; this was the case nearly worldwide, not just in Germany. Since women were still at home, they jumped to help out their countries (and families). Since they were taking on a variety of jobs, they needed proper training, therefore schools were opening their doors to all genders. There was still resistance with this with the promise of men coming back home. The year that World War I ended, women gained the right to vote in Germany.

In 1929, the Wall Street Crash led to a worldwide Depression. Out of every nation, Germany suffered the most and this caused the economy to collapse. Ever since World War I, things really began to go downhill for Germany. They became desperate while the nation slipped into poverty and unemployment, so they looked to political leaders for answers. In 1933, Adolf Hitler was announced as the Chancellor by President Hidenburg. Hilter quickly worked to dismantle the country’s democracy and was given unlimited power over Germany after Hidenburg died in 1934. The takeover of the Nazi party led to a complete change in the nation. Women, who were making progress on feminism, were now limited to have their lives revolve around raising children, cooking, and attending the Nazi dictated church. They were encouraged to give up work and the more children they had, the more awards and loans they were given. The Nazi ideology was pushed onto young people because they were the future. The schools’ curriculums began to revolve around their concepts, churches were ran by the party, and children were expected to join ‘Nazi Boys’ Groups.’

World War II influenced the shut down of the Bauhaus. The school was only operational for 14 years. For a school that was so accepting of races and genders, it did feel attacked by the Nazi party. Although the school shut down, any surviving artists and professors moved and continued to influence people with their art work. The Nazi ideology was centered around the idea of making a ‘super race’ made up of northern european citizens, so if minorities had the opportunity to flee, they typically would. Many artists died during World War II; Otti Berger, was taken to Auschwitz with her family and murdered, and Alma Siedhoff-Buscher was killed in an air raid in Germany. Brandt remained in isolation during the 1930’s and 1940’s to hide from the Nazi’s. She was unemployed, but worked on some of her other skills, like painting. Some of her most depressing work was from this era, but understandably so.

Marianne Brandt

Throughout her lifetime, Marianne Brandt created beautiful pieces. Her most well known works were definitely metal work. The infused teapot she created in 1924 recently sold for $361,000. Other works like metal trays, lamps, lights, and ashtrays are still popular today. With the short period that Brandt was working as an artist, she was a huge influence on design, feminism, and the Bauhaus. Her works are still considered some very big building blocks of modern industrial design. Her work not only greatly represented her, but also the Bauhaus school. Given the short time frame and the obstacles she had to overcome, Marianne Brandt should be considered a prestige designer.

Table Lamp, 1951
Teapot, 1924
Ceiling Lamp, 1925
Portrait, 1928

Word Count: 1,525




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