Curator of Fine Arts Collection
Center for the Arts, 104
Decorah, IA 52101
Center for the Arts, 101
Decorah, IA 52101
The Luther College Fine Arts Collection contains many pieces by the artist Frans Wildenhain (1905-1980). Our collection contains drawings, paintings, pottery and sculpture made by Frans.
Frans Rudolf Wildenhain, a well-known sculptor, painter, ceramicist, and teacher, was born in Leipzig, Germany, on June 6, 1905. Wildenhain apprenticed as both a draftsman and lithographer before attending the Bauhaus School in Weimar, Germany. While there, he studied under Paul Klee, László Maholy-Nagy, Gerhard Marcks, and Max Krehan. After the Bauhaus closed, he attended the State School of Applied Art at Halle-Saale. In 1933, he moved to Holland where he operated a workshop in Putten with his wife, the well-known ceramics artist, Marguerite Wildenhain. By 1941, he had moved his workshop to Amsterdam where he taught at the School for Applied Arts. After the end of World War II, he immigrated to the United States and worked in partnership with Marguerite Wildenhain, fiber artist Trude Guermonprez, and jewelry designer Victor Ries at the Pond Farm workshops in Guerneville, California. After leaving California, he joined the faculty of the School of American Craftsman at the Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, New York) in 1950 where he was a ceramics instructor for over twenty years. In 1952, Frans and Marguerite divorced. He subsequently remarried, to Elisabeth (Lili) Brockardt, a weaver and textile artist. He died in 1980.
Wildenhain received numerous awards for his works including prizes from the International Exposition in Paris in 1939, the Albright Art Gallery in 1952, and the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. His works are owned by the following institutions: Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam); Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.); Everson Museum (Syracuse, New York); Seattle Art Museum; and, the Art Institute of Chicago. Wildenhain was featured in over 200 exhibitions including shows at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City), the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Des Moines Art Center, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the Baltimore Museum of Art. He contributed ceramics designs to Art and Architecture, House Beautiful, Craft Horizons and other publications. Recently, Rochester Institute of Technology organized a major exhibition of his work "Frans Wildenhain (1950-1975): Creative and Commercial American Ceramics at Mid-century". He created commissioned works for several venues including the Strasenburgh Lab (Rochester, New York), the National Library of Medicine in (Bethesda, Maryland), and the RIT. Wildenhain was the subject of numerous articles in both domestic and international art journals, art reference books, and newspapers. Many of his personal papers are housed at the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution and the Luther College Archives.
There are 59 works in the Luther College Fine Arts Collection by Frans Wildenhain. They include 22 drawings and watercolors given in honor of Edith Huset Talle by her daughters; 21 ceramic works given by Lili Wildenhain in honor of her husband, Frans; ten prints and drawings given by Henri Friedlaender, brother of Marguerite (Friedlaender) Wildenhain; three ceramic pieces and one large watercolor given by Dean Schwarz; and three small ceramic pieces created by Frans and/or Marguerite from the time they were together in Holland, donated by Brent Johnson.