Biography: Frans Rudolf Wildenhain is known as a sculptor, painter, ceramic craftsman and teacher. Born in Leipzig, Germany, on June 6, 1905, he apprenticed as both a draftsman and lithographer before attending the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany. While there he studied under Paul Klee, 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 emigrated to the United States and worked in partnership with his wife, 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 in 1950 where he taught as an instructor in ceramics for over twenty years. In 1952 Frans and Marguerite were 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 Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.), Everson Museum (Syracuse, NY), Seattle Art Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago. He was featured in over 200 exhibitions including shows at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City), the San Francisco Museum of Art, Des Moines Art Center, University of California (Los Angeles, CA) and the Baltimore Museum of Art. He contributed ceramics designs to Art and Architecture, House Beautiful, Craft Horizons and other publications. He created especially commissioned works for several venues including the Strasenburgh Lab (Rochester, NY), the National Library of Medicine in (Bethesda, MD), and the Rochester Institute of Technology. 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; 10 prints and drawings given by Henri Friedlaender, brother of Marguerite (Friedlaender) Wildenhain; 3 ceramic pieces and 1 large watercolor given by Dean Schwarz; and 3 small ceramic pieces created by Frans and/or Marguerite from the time they were together in Holland, donated by Brent Johnson.