Lilly Reich (1885-1947)

The German modernist designer and visual artist Lilly Reich was the first woman elected to the governing board of the Deutscher Werkbund. She is best known for the famous Barcelona Chair.

Portrait of Lilly Reich

Image source: http://www.core77.com/posts/55200/Lilly-Reich-Was-More-Than-Miess-Collaborator


About her life

Lily Reich was born on June 16, 1885 in Berlin. When she was 26 years old, she started to design furniture and clothing. She also worked as a shop window decorator. In 1920 Lilly became the first woman elected to the governing board of the Deutscher Werkbund. During one of trade fairs, Reich met Ludwig Mies Van der Roche who became her close collaborator for more than ten years. In collaboration with him, she created famous furniture pieces such as Barcelona chair and table. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Reich never reached popularity as her famous male collaborator. In 1932, she started teaching at the Bauhaus as head instructor of interior design workshop but the Bauhaus school closed the following year by Nazis. At the end of the war, Reich started teaching at another school but she died a few years later, in 1947.


Info source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilly_Reich

Lilly Reich, 1933. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, photograph by Fritz Schreiber, © Irmela Schreiber, Karlsruhe.

Image source: https://www.moma.org/artists/8059

What were her major works?

Like several European modernists working in 1920s, Reich had a strong interest in using new industrial production techniques and materials. This led her to be considered the only woman at that time to design a full series of furniture made from tubular steel. Since her early age, she was interested in the art of embroidery but she started applying her knowledge and skills related to Bauhaus furniture only in 1908.

Info source: https://www.widewalls.ch/artist/lilly-reich/

Garden Table, 1931 (Left) / Small Chair, 1931 (Right)

Image source: https://www.moma.org/artists/8059

Lilly Reich designed a cooking cupboard for the 1931 German Building ExhibitionThe Dwelling in our Time, in Berlin. This Reich’s work shows how much functionality can be both beautiful and powerful. From the drawing we can see that when it is closed, this structure appears to be like a closet. However, when it is opened you can see a sink, some shelves, drawers and several kitchen tools. Today, this drawing can be seen at MOMA – Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Apartment for a Single Person, 1931

Image source: https://www.widewalls.ch/artist/lilly-reich/

 

How can we identify Reich’s style?

One of the most important aspect of Lilly Reich’s style is simplicity that never gets old. She used to adopt what she perceived as an essential design never giving up a minimalist and elegant tasteThe famous Barcelona chair that Lilly Reich designed together with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is still one of the most recognizable lounge chairs in the world both in private and public environments. This is an evidence of Reich’s strong talent and innovative approach that is praised even a century later.
Info source: https://www.widewalls.ch/artist/lilly-reich/

Pier Mirror, 1927

Image source: https://www.bauhaus2yourhouse.com/products/lilly-reich-pier-mirror

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