Marguerite Wildenhain

Marguerite Friedlaender Wildenhain was born October 11, 1896, in Lyon, France. She was educated in Europe, apprenticing at the Bauhaus under master potter Max Krehan and sculptor Gerhard Marcks. Expelled from the Bauhaus because of her Jewish origin, she moved to Holland with her husband, Frans Wildenhain, where they founded a pottery in Putten. After living there seven years, she moved to the United States in 1940. Her husband, also a Bauhaus-trained ceramic artist, remained behind, conscripted into the German army. Marguerite Wildenhain settled near Guerneville, CA, in 1942 where she founded an artist cooperative known as Pond Farm.

Frans Wildenhain (1905-1980) joined her in the late 1940’s where they managed the venture together, adding two additional artists. Trude (Jalowetz) Guermonprez (1910-1976), a textile artist, and Victor Ries, a metal artist and jewelry maker, worked there for several years until 1952. Eventually, Frans and Marguerite Wildenhain divorced and Marguerite became the sole manager of the Pond Farm workshops.

At Pond Farm, about 70 miles north of San Francisco, she opened a summer school which lasted until 1980, training approximately 25 students each summer. These summer-long workshops were intense learning experiences for artists, many of whom have gone on to have distinguished art-related careers of their own. During these years, she also traveled extensively, giving workshops at colleges and galleries around the United States and visiting South and Central America, Iran, Israel and Europe. She was an active member of the American Craft Council.

Works by Wildenhain are typically signed with the words Pond Farm and include a small jug signet incised on the base. Her ceramic art was shown widely in galleries and museums and sold commercially at Gump’s in San Francisco and in department stores in Chicago, IL, and Dallas, TX. Three books, two films, and numerous exhibit catalogs and articles in art reference books document her life and philosophy of art.

Dean Schwarz, former Art Department faculty member and chair at Luther College and a ceramics artist, met Wildenhain in the 1960s and studied with her during many summer workshops. As a result of this relationship, Wildenhain was introduced to Luther College, teaching students through workshops and lectures. In 1969, Wildenhain was awarded an honorary doctor of humanities degree by Luther College. The College received 51 pieces of pottery from her in 1973 followed by a collection of her drawings in 1981. At that time, she also donated drawings and woodcuts by Gerhard Marcks, her mentor and life-long friend from the Bauhaus. During her lifetime, Marguerite presented rare books to the Luther College Library and contributed her mineral collection to the College’s Geology Collection. After her death at Pond Farm, February 24, 1985, her Gerhard Marcks bronze sculptures and her collection of pre-Columbian pots were bequeathed to the College through her estate.

The Wildenhain Collection at Luther College continues to expand. During summer 2002, fifteen ceramic works by Wildenhain were donated to the Fine Arts Collection by Javis and James Fortmann. "Jay" Fortmann was a Pond Farm alumnus, attending three summer workshops there between 1966 and 1971. In September 2002, an additional covered jar by Wildenhain was donated to the Collection by Ed Traynor, a Pond Farm alumnus of 1957. Another former student, Carol McFarlan, donated a self-portrait sculpture of Wildenhain to the Fine Arts Collection in 2008. It was wheel-thrown, then altered by Wildenhain around 1975.

A Pond Farm Collection of art works by alumni of the Pond Farm workshops is a part of Luther College's art collections. This collection of works was first viewed in the exhibit, "The Visible Core," held at Luther College in 1996 as part of the commemoration of the centenary of Wildenhain’s birth. The celebration and documentation of Marguerite Wildenhain’s legacy was continued in 2002 with the exhibit, "Ripples: Marguerite Wildenhain and Her Pond Farm Students" which began at California State University, San Bernardino. CA, and was continued in Utah and New York. The intent of the Pond Farm Collection is to tangibly represent the legacy of Wildenhain, carried on through the work of her students.

Source of Biography
Accompanying bibliography of works by and about Marguerite Wildenhain.