The Story: There are many great talents that have their moment in the sun and then disappear from view for untold number of reasons. Such is the story behind the Bauhaus-trained ceramist, Grete Marks. I love
the story from a woman-as-an-artist point of view and because I think her pieces are simply quite handsome and so representative of the German art deco period in which she worked.
Although starting her career in a rather stellar way with admission into the infamous Bauhaus in 1920, she encountered rejection there due to the fact that she was a woman when she requested to join the ceramics department. This little publicized fact about the restrictions imposed upon women artists and designers by the Bauhaus seems so unfathomable being that the Bauhaus was such a fountain of advanced thinking in the world of design.
Subsequently, Marks…whose real name was Margarete(Grete)Heyman Löbenstein Marks…went on to open the Haël Workshops for Artistic Ceramics ( Haël Werkstätten) with her husband and brother in law and produce some rather exquisite ceramic pieces which were highly representative of the the art deco influence in design at that time. The business was highly successful and sold the dishware and other up scaled looking pieces not only in Germany but in the United States and England.
I think you can sense Marks’ artistic individualism and drive just by looking at this photograph of her taken in 1925. You do love the shirt and tie look…quite a statement, I would say. Don’t forget to remember that woman had long suffered as second class citizens prior to this time, even in the cultivated world of Europe and the US, which kept them from achieving great success in their endeavors.
Unfortunately, with the rise of Naziism, Marks, as a Jew and an artist, had her work labeled “degenerate” and she was force to sell the factory and eventually move to England. She managed to continue her ceramic work working at various potteries in England, but under the constraints imposed by the Pre-World War II English artistic environment her work never reached the same peak it had when the Haël Workshop was operative. Eventually , she remarried in 1938, and settled in London and devoted herself to a career as a painter.
Nice End to the Story:
Recently, through the help of her daughter, Frances Marks, there was a retrospective of her work, called “When Art Was Degenerate,” and held at the Milwaukee Art Museum, where some of the most beautiful pieces she designed at Haël were on display. You can also find her work in the collections of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin and other fine arts institutions.
I like a well deserved happy ending…
Ciao, ciao ’til next time!