Marianne Brandt (1893 – 1983)

German painter, sculptor, photographer and designer: Brandt’s reputation in a world of men was established, above all, by her industrial products made from metal and glass.

Marianne Brandt
Marianne Brandt

Image source: by Apalipicipiapa

Brandt’s designs for metal ashtrays, tea and coffee services, lamps and other household objects are now recognized as among the best of the Weimar and Dessau Bauhaus: so much so, that they were among the few Bauhaus designs to be mass-produced during the interwar period.

Mind over metal

Marianne Brandt (born October 1st, 1893) began her art education in 1911, at a private art school in Weimar. Afterwards, she was accepted at the Hochschule für Bildende Kunst Weimar, where she studied painting and sculpture.

In 1919, she married the Norwegian painter Erik Brandt. In 1920, she took a one-year tour of Europe, with the intent of further developing her mastery on the craft,  including visits to Paris and the south of France. She eventually came to the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar in 1923, where she attended the preliminary course, that is László Moholy-Nagy‘s metal workshop, as well as classes by Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Walter Gropius.

Samovar by Marianne Brandt, 1925
Samovar by Marianne Brandt, 1925

Image source: by Daderot

In 1926, Brandt moved, together with the rest of Bauhaus, to Dessau, and a year later took charge of lighting design, together with the metal workshop, before becoming its director from 1928 to 1929. On September 10th 1929, she earned her Bauhaus diploma, and subsequently left.

After many years of living apart, she and Erik officially divorced in 1935. In 1939, she became a member of the Reich Chamber of Culture, yet she did not join the National Socialist German Workers Party. In 1949, Mart Stam appointed her as a lecturer at the HfBK Dresden.

She worked at the University of Applied Art until 1954; after World War II, Brandt remained in Chemnitz to help rebuild her family’s home, which had been severely damaged in the bombings; at last, she lived out her days in East Germany where she died  at the age of 89, the 18th of June, 1983.

Marianne brandt, ashtray, 1924
Marianne brandt, ashtray, 1924

Image source: by sailko

Her works

Brandt was involved with a body of photomontage work as well, though all but a few were not publicly known until the 1970s, after she had abandoned the Bauhaus style and was living in Communist East Germany. The photomontages came to public attention after Bauhaus historian Eckhard Neumann solicited the early experiments, stimulated by resurgent interest in modernist experiment in the West.

Marianne Brandt, tea infuser, 1924
Marianne Brandt, tea infuser, 1924

Image source: by sailko

These often focused on the complex situation of women in the interwar period, a time when they had begun enjoying new freedoms in the workplace, over fashion and sexuality, yet frequently experienced traditional prejudices due to her gender.

Much of Brandt’s energy was directed into her lighting designs, including collaborating with small number of Bauhaus colleagues and students. One of her early projects was the ME78B hanging lamp (1926).

Ceiling lamp HMB 29
Bauhaus building – Ceiling lamp HMB 29 by Marianne Brandt (1928/29)

Image source: by oswaId

This elegant pendant light made of aluminum featured a simple saucer shade combined with a then innovative pulley system and counter-weight, which allowed the height of the lamp to be adjusted with ease; the pendant was used in multiple locations in the Dessau campus, including the metal, weaving and architecture department, as well as the dining room of Gropius’ own house.

Brandt is also remembered as a pioneering photographer. She created experimental still-life compositions, but it is her series of self-portraits which are particularly striking. These often represent her as a strong and independent New Woman of the Bauhaus.

Tempo, Tempo!
Tempo, Tempo! The Bauhaus Photomontages of Marianne Brandt

Image source:

Other examples show her face and body distorted across the curved and mirrored surfaces of metal balls, creating a blended image of herself and her primary medium at the Bauhaus. Brandt was one of few women at Bauhaus who distanced herself from the fields considered more feminine at the time such as weaving or pottery.

Brandt was also known for her tea designs, such as her Tea Infuser, which are characteristic of the early phases of modernism. Form predominates over ornament and there is a clear sense of at least symbolic compatibility with modern mass-production technology.

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