Marianne Brandt (1893 – 1983)

German painter, sculptor, photographer and designer: Brandt reputation was established above all by her industrial products made from metal and glass.

Marianne Brandt

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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: they were among the few Bauhaus designs to be mass-produced during the interwar period.

about her life

Marianne Brandt (1 October 1893 – 18 June 1983) began her education in art in 1911 at a private art school in Weimar. Afterwards, she was accepted at the Hochschule für Bildende Kunst Weimar and studied painting and sculpture.

In 1919, she married the Norwegian painter Erik Brandt. In 1920, she took a

Desk Lamp, 1930

one-year study tour with visits to Paris and the south of France. She came to the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar in 1923, where she attended the preliminary course, László Moholy-Nagy‘s metal workshop, as well as classes by Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Walter Gropius.

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

Ash Tray, 1924

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. She lived out her days in East Germany where she died  at the age of 89.

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Her works

Brandt also produced a body of photomontage work, 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.

Tea infuser,1924

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.

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These photomontages often focus on the complex situation of women in the interwar period, a time when they enjoyed new freedoms in work, fashion and sexuality, yet frequently experienced traditional prejudices.

Much of Brandt’s energy was directed into her lighting designs, including

ME78B hanging lamp

collaborations with small number of Bauhaus colleagues and students. One of her early projects was the ME78B hanging lamp (1926).

This elegant pendant light made of aluminum featured a simple saucer shade combined with an 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’s own house.

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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;

Untitled, 1930

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, suh 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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