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Ashtray

Ashtray

  • Place of origin:

    Weimar (made)

  • Date:

    1924 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Brandt, Marianne, born 1893 - died 1983 (designer and maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Brass and electroplated nickel silver

  • Museum number:

    M.73&A-1988

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This ashtray is one of the earliest works by Marianne Brandt to be produced in the Bauhaus Metal Workshop in Weimar.

Brandt joined the Bauhaus in 1924 at a critical stage in its development. The Hungarian, Laslo Moholy-Nagy had recently been made Formeister (form master) of the Metal Workshops by the Director of the school, Walter Gropius. He replaced Johannes Itten who had been in charge of the Metal Workshops since the establishment of the Bauhaus in 1919.

Itten had been an influential figure in the Bauhaus. He was Director of the preliminary course and several other workshops beside the important metal workshops. His approach was essentially subjective, placing great emphasis on the student's individual creativity. Under Itten's direction, the Metal Workshops worked exclusively in precious metals producing highly crafted objects of an individual nature which at times bore similarities with the work produced by the Wiener Werkstatte.

However Itten's individualistic expressionism was increasingly at odds with the ambitions of Gropius who was determined to reorganise the metal shops for industrial prototype production. Itten departed in 1923 and was replaced by Moholy-Nagy who was much more in sympathy with this policy. Having been associated with Van Doesburg of the De Stijl movement and the Russian Supremacists. El Lissitzky and Naum Gabo, he incorporated elements of the constructivist philosophy in the new curriculum. In his writing he advocated the use of simple geometric forms and placed great emphasis on clarity, objectivity and abstraction which, he was convinced, was the most promising approach to the problems of industrial design itself. In this he was supported by Christian Dell who had been made Craft Master of the Metal Workshops in 1922. Dell, who had worked with Van de Velde, was an experienced silversmith. His own work illustrates a concern for pure geometric forms (see the tea and coffee service, VAM Circ.257-262,-1970) and he proved a gifted teacher who could demonstrate how different shapes could be created out of flat sheets of metal. Moholy-Nagy successfully encouraged this talent and was instrumental in introducing the use of ferrous metals, nickel and chromium plating.

One of the first and arguably most brilliant students to respond to these developments was Marianne Brandt. She was later to write: "We wanted to return to the simplest forms." (Form und Zweck, Fachzeitschrift fur Industrielle Formestaltung, Issue No.3, 1979, p.69). Her first designs which include this ashtray and the tea infuser in the British Museum were ruthlessly geometric and have since become icons of the Weimar Bauhaus.

Thus this ashtray represents a fundamental change of direction, not only for the Metal Workshops but for the Bauhaus generally. From this point onwards, the tuition and workshop practice were geared to the requirements of industrial design. After the move to Dessau in 1925, Marianne Brandt designed a series of light fittings adopted by Korting & Matthiesen and Leipzig Leutzsch which were commercially very successful. However, her work never quite achieved the formal and iconic properties of her earlier work in Weimar.

Physical description

The bowl is a squat cylinder made of brass sheet joined by a soldered, vertical seam down the side and internally soldered toa flat, circular base. The rim has been strengthened by a narrow internal flange of nickel silver alloy with a segment removed to accommodate the cigarette holder attached to the lid.

The bowl rests on a narrow, circular foot, inset from the base and of reduced diameter to the base itself. It is contructed from a narrow strip of alloy soldered to the base and joined by a short, soldered vertical seam.

The circular lid of nickel silver alloy is parabolic in cross section and is supported by two small spindles, soldered at opposite sides to the circumference to the underside of the rim, which fit into slots cut into the internal flange round the rim of the bowl. Thus with slight pressure on the side of the lid opposite the cigarette holder, the lid tips to deposit ash into the bowl. The cigarette support is a curved strip of alloy with straight sides, soldered to the side of the lid and rests in the segment removed from the rim of the bowl.

Place of Origin

Weimar (made)

Date

1924 (made)

Artist/maker

Brandt, Marianne, born 1893 - died 1983 (designer and maker)

Materials and Techniques

Brass and electroplated nickel silver

Marks and inscriptions

Stamped on the underside of the base with the Bauhaus seal, encircled with the inscription STAATLICHES BAUHAUS-WEIMAR.
The inscription designed by Oscar Schlemmer and in use from 1922.

Dimensions

Height: 6.7 cm, Width: 9.9 cm maximum

Object history note

This ashtray is one of the earliest works by Marianne Brandt to be produced in the Bauhaus Metal Workshop in Weimar.

Modernism Exhibition RF.2005/362

Historical context note

Marianne Brandt joined the Bauhaus in 1924 at a critical stage in its development. The Hungarian, Laslo Moholy-Nagy had recently been made Formeister (form master) of the Metal Workshops by the Director of the school, Walter Gropius. He replaced Johannes Itten who had been in charge of the Metal Workshops since the establishment of the Bauhaus in 1919.

Itten had been an influential figure in the Bauhaus. He was Director of the preliminary course and several other workshops beside the important metal workshops. His approach was essentially subjective, placing great emphasis on the student's individual creativity. Under Itten's direction, the Metal Workshops worked exclusively in precious metals producing highly crafted objects of an individual nature which at times bore similarities with the work produced by the Wiener Werkstatte.

However Itten's individualistic expressionism was increasingly at odds with the ambitions of Gropius who was determined to reorganise the metal shops for industrial prototype production. Itten departed in 1923 and was replaced by Moholy-Nagy who was much more in sympathy with this policy. Having been associated with Van Doesburg of the De Stijl movement and the Russian Suprematisits. El Lissitzky and Naum Gabo, he incorporated elements of the constructivist philosophy in the new curriculum. In his writing he advocated the use of simple geometric forms and placed great emphasis on clarity, objectivity and abstraction which, he was convinced, was the most promising approach to the problems of industrial design itself. In this he was supported by Christian Dell who had been made Craft Master of the Metal Workshops in 1922. Dell, who had worked with Van de Velde, was an experienced silversmith. His own work illustrates a concern for pure geometric forms (see the tea and coffee service, VAM Circ.257-262,-1970) and he proved a gifted teacher who could demonstrate how different shapes could be created out of flat sheets of metal. Moholy-Nagy successfully encouraged this talent and was instrumental in introducing the use of ferrous metals, nickel and chromium plating.

One of the first and arguably most brilliant students to respond to these developments was Marianne Brandt. She was later to write: "We wanted to return to the simplest forms." (Form und Zweck, Fachzeitschrift fur Industrielle Formestaltung, Issue No.3, 1979, p.69). Her first designs which include this ashtray and the tea infuser in the British Museum were ruthlessly geometric and have since become icons of the Weimar Bauhaus.

Thus this ashtray represents a fundamental change of direction, not only for the Metal Workshops but for the Bauhaus generally. From this point onwards, the tuition and workshop practice were geared to the requirements of industrial design. After the move to Dessau in 1925, Marianne Brandt designed a series of light fittings adopted by Korting & Matthiesen and Leipzig Leutzsch which were commercially very successful. However, her work never quite achieved the formal and iconic properties of her earlier work in Weimar.

Descriptive line

Brass and nickel silver alloy, Germany, Weimar, 1924, designed and made by Marianne Brandt in the Bauhaus workshops, Weimar.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

p.320, ill.
Wingler, Hans M. Das Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago, Cologne, 1962, MIT Press, Cambridge Mass., 1969
Wilk, Christopher (ed.) Modernism : designing a new world 1914-1939. London: V&A Publications, 2006 Number: 1851774777 (pbk.)

Materials

Brass; Nickel silver

Techniques

Soldering; Electroplating

Categories

Containers; Metalwork; Interiors; Household objects; Shekou; Values of Design; Design Society

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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