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Marguerite Wildenhain

French/ American
(1896–1985)

Jar
1958

Stoneware
6.9 x 6 x 6 in.
Museum Permanent Collection
1984.509

his Marguerite Wildenhain vessel is a flawless example of her skill and 1950s style. The round wide-lipped vase was paddled after throwing on the wheel to a soft rectangle, and features a warm mocha glaze. Each side is treated with a vertical decorative element. Not only is it thrown so well that it is nearly weightless, being perfectly balanced throughout, but it also exemplifies her 1950s approach to shape and textural elements inspired by her many drawings from nature.

Wildenhain is known in the field for her Bauhaus training and teaching methods. She was born in Lyon, France to a German father and an English Jewish mother. After high school, Marguerite made ceramic decorations in a porcelain factory, but when she saw workers throwing vessels — she knew what she wanted to do with her life. The Bauhaus called for students in 1919 and she enrolled. After eighteen months of foundations courses with Paul Klee, Lionel Feininger, Joseph Albers, and Wassily Kandinsky, she was taught to design, throw, calculate glazes and fire vessels. The last student admitted to the ceramics program was Franz Wildenhain, who became her husband a few years later.

When political change closed the Bauhaus, Marguerite taught ceramics in a city school where she finished her requirements to become the first female master potter in Europe. Since Jews needed to leave Germany, she set up a pottery studio in Holland for seven years. Her last move was northeast of San Francisco to a remote mountain site where she created Pond Farm pottery and summer school. In America she introduced the Bauhaus sit down kick wheel and throwing method. She made her own work in the winters, wrote three books, and traveled extensively for spring college workshops to forty-seven states over the next thirty years. From 1950-1980 about two dozen students came to Pond Farm each summer for intense instruction about pottery, philosophy, art and life. Since her death, the property and buildings at Pond Farm have been preserved and have been designated a "National Treasure" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Billie Sessions, PhD.


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