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Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Dortmund

A few weeks ago, I accepted a very kind invitation from the Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte (MKK) in Dortmund. The museum was in the middle of preparing for their anniversary exhibition Rausch der Schönheit. Die Kunst des Jugendstils. In order to generate extra publicity, the museum invited a group of bloggers for the exhibition while at the same time introducing them to the Jugendstil around Dortmund.


Well, it turned out to be a wonderful weekend! The chemistry within the group was excellent, I saw a lot and I learned a lot. In general, all bloggers (all German except me) were pleasantly surprised by the vast amount of Jugendstil-related things to see around Dortmund. There was actually só much to see and write about, that I decided to spread my impressions over several articles. And I’ll start with the exhibition. Of course!


In order to fully understand the purpose of the museum though, and this exhibition in particular, I have to tell you about another exhibition first. We need to go back to 1851, and the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London. This exhibition at Crystal Palace was initiated by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, and other members of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce as a celebration of modern industrial technology and design. Afterwards though, the Royal Commission condemned all exhibiting countries for historicizing and a total lack of modern design. The commission called for immediate measures and urged for education in design and for museums with well curated and above all educational design collections.

Crystal Palace in Hyde Park for Grand International Exhibition of 1851

Crystal Palace (Hyde Park) Grand International Exhibition of 1851

Consequently, all over Europe, special schools were set up to get that desired eduction in drawing and design off the ground. The students of these drawing schools should be considered as the first real ‘designers’. At the same time Arts and Crafts museums were established in order to start collecting examples of good design and inspire the earlier mentioned students. One of those museums is the current Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte (MKK), in Dortmund. It was established in 1883 as ‘Kunst- und Gewerbemuseum’, and is with its 135 years the oldest Arts and Crafts museum in the Ruhr area.

The Avant-Garde Artists of the Fin-de-Siècle

Where previously only painting and architecture (and music, sculpture and poetry) had been considered fine arts, the avant-garde at the end of the nineteenth century rejected that principle. They preached that every beautifully designed object should be considered art. That simple fact ‘permitted’ architects and painters to draw other things, and experiment with other disciplines. Architects started designing furniture, dresses and cutlery, whereas painters began to design houses or glass and ceramics. A modern artist could design every aspect of life, whether it be a house, its interior or a dress for its owner. Applied art became equally important as fine art. And each home would ideally become a Total Work of Art, or a so-called Gesamtkunstwerk.

Exhibition includes a collection of glasses from the Dörte Schröder Foundation

It was also the first time that designers were no longer necessarily the makers of a product. Therefore, designers needed to work closely with ateliers and traditional craftsmen. Eventually, they even learned to cooperate with factories. After all everybody, even someone with little money to spend, was entitled to be surrounded by beautiful products. If needed, cheaper materials could be used or cheaper production processes could be applied. But there would be no compromise as to the quality of the design.

A good example of such a fruitful cooperation between artists (designers) and ateliers (makers) was the Dresdner Werkstätten für Handwerkskunst that was founded in 1898. Or the Künstlerkolonie Mathildenhöhe, founded in 1899 in Darmstadt, that worked closely together with furniture manufacturers like Julius Glückert. And of course we all know the Wiener Werkstätte that was established in 1903 by Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann.

Personally I loved this ‘door curtain’ designed by Frida Hansen, 1900, Oslo.
A loan from the Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart

Rausch der Schönheit. Die Kunst des Jugendstils

So now we are slowly getting to the actual exhibition Rausch der Schönheit. Die Kunst des Jugendstils… Albert Baum (1862-1934), founding director of the Kunst- und Gewerbemuseum in Dortmund, went to the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle. With the money he was allowed to spend, he purchased around 30 of the most modern works of applied art from some of the best workshops in the world. And by doing so, he offered the visitor of his museum a chance to discover the latest design trends at the turn of the 19th century. These very works obtained in Paris in 1900 laid the foundation of the Jugendstil collection which today still occupies a prominent place in the museum’s collection. And it is the center of today’s exhibition.

Baum mainly acquired glass, ceramics and porcelain at the 1900 Paris World Fair. From contemporary designers in Germany, France, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA. And judging by his purchases, it seems he valued Scandinavian ceramics in particular! The most expensive purchase though was a rug by Frida Hansen which unfortunately did not survive the second world war. He purchased ceramics from Rörstrand and Gustavsberg at Josef Leja from Stockholm; Max Laeuger tiles were purchased at Otto Müller from Karlsruhe. And Tiffany glass, and ceramics from Rookwood and Grueby were purchased at Galerie Bing from Paris. Yes, he even bought some vases from Émile Gallé. All the big names are there!

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Back in Dortmund Baum didn’t stop collecting contemporary and exemplary design. In 1904 for instance, the museum purchased a bundle of Katagami, finely cut paper stencils for textile dyeing. The Katagami were often used by students of the local design school to study Japanese art. Stylised elements of nature, abstract and geometric patterns and asymmetrical curves in Japanese art had a remarkable influence on Jugendstil artists. We can easily recognise that influence in the designs of for instance Henry van de Velde (1863-1957), Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898) and Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959).

Besides Katagami, the museum added numerous example books to their collection, like The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones (1856). The exhibition shows some beautiful plates from Von der Pflanze zum Ornament (Kolb and Gmelich 1902), Documents Decoratifs (Alphonse Mucha 1901) and Vorbilder für Kunstverglasungen im stile der Neuzeit (Arnold Lyongrün 1900), as well as many famous Japanese woodblock prints.

When the heirs of the first generation of Jugendstil collectors started to offer objects to the market, a new series of purchases was initiated. From the exhibition catalogue, I learned that the collection was regularly expanded in the 1960s and 1970s. Another major contribution to the museum’s Jugendstil collection consists of gifts. From the Dortmunder Museumgesellschaft zur Pflege der bildenden Kunst, from the Stiftung für das Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte and not least from private people. The biggest addition to the collection came without a doubt from Aenne Klönne-Glückert.

Examples of Interior Design and Furniture Design

Aenne_Klönne-GlückertÄnne Klönne-Glückert (1879-1969?) was the daughter of Julius Glückert (1848-1911), a furniture manufacturer in Darmstadt who worked closely together with Joseph Maria Olbrich (1867-1908). In 1964, Aenne Klönne donated the interior of a lady parlor, designed by Olbrich, to the museum collection. But she also donated many smaller objects, like wine glasses, belt buckles, textiles, medals and postcards. In 1969 her heirs donated even more of her personal belongings, including a lot of furniture, to the collection. Thanks to Änne Glückert the museum now owned an impressive collection of Olbrich furniture.

When I was asked to identify the fabric inside the Olbrich cabinet I immediately recognised a Backhausen fabric, designed by Ludwig Jungnickel in 1903.

I think all that furniture wetted an appetite as in 1986, the museum purchased  yet another interior. This time mainly containing furniture from the Dresdner Werkstätten für Handwerkskunst, designed by Richard Riemerschmid (1868-1957). And from there on we see the purchase of an original Sitzmaschine by Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956), and more furniture designed by Otto Wagner (1841-1918), Louis Majorelle (1859-1926) and even Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959).

Dresdner Hausgerät Schlafzimmer Modell nr. 79 Einrichtung II

Dresdner Hausgerät Schlafzimmer Modell nr. 79 Einrichtung II

Due to copy rights legislation though, I was not allowed to photograph any of the works of Richard Riemerschmid (1868–1957), Henry Van de Velde (1863-1957), Frank Lloyd Wright and Bernhard Hoetger (1874-1949). Those laws are very troublesome, as everyone wants to share pictures on social media, and museums end up paying the fines for that. But I have located some identical objects at other websites and in books, so you can still get an idea of what the museum has to offer: a 1903 table by Frank Lloyd Wright for instance, specifically designed for Japanese printmaking, which was purchased in 1987 can be seen here. Richard Riemerschmids work can be admired here. And beautiful interior designs by Patriz Huber can be seen here.


Patriz Huber, Glückert Residence Darmstadt, Room for daughter 1900-1901

Clearly, the museum always took its raison-d’etre very seriously and continued broadening its collection to educate visitors about (the history of) design. Another excellent demonstration of how serious the museum takes its educational responsibility is the monumental catalogue the MKK published to accompany this exhibition. I have read the whole 300+ pages and found it truly impressive what this small yet dedicated group of staff has accomplished. Jens Stöcker, the current director of the museum, concludes with a mission for all museums: “When deciding what to keep and what not, museums have to make sure that future generations get the same opportunity as Baum created for us. Only when we carefully document the history of an object, its origin and its context, it becomes clear where the gaps in our collection are and what acquisitions are necessary to coherently explain developments in cultural history”.

The valuable catalogue can be purchased at the museum and from the publisher’s website. If your German language skills are okay, I can really recommend the book! I uploaded a brochure about the exhibition in English for you here.

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Planning to visit the exhibition? Make sure you plan a weekend as the museum has organised lots of ‘intoxicating’ activities around the exhibition. Here you can find the Activities Program.

There’s also a free Actionbound App with a Jugendstil walk through the Kaiserstrassen-area: https://en.actionbound.com/

Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Hansastraße 3, Dortmund
9 December 2018 – 23 June 2019

From the other bloggers on this trip:

Continue reading:
Genesis of Twentieth Century Design
Industriemuseum Zeche Zollern
Katagami collection at the Museum of Domenstic Design & Architecture
MKK zeigt “Die Kunst des Jugendstils”
Offizieller Katalog der Dritten Deutschen Kunstgewerbe-Ausstellung, Dresden 1906
Rausch der Schönheit: Dortmunder Museum zeigt seine ungeahnten Jugendstil-Schätze
Wolfsonian Library: Renewed Interest in the “New Art”
Wikisource Das Kunstgewerbe (1914)
Wikipage Kunstgewerbe (German)
Wikipage Zollern II/IV Colliery – Industrial Jugendstil Heritage
WRD3 Mosaik: Sendung über Rausch der Schönheit mit Berit Hempel (German)