Ludwig Hohlwein (1874-1949) is one of the most celebrated and successful poster artists of the early 20th century. Renowned for his use of flat, interlocking planes of bold, contrasting colours with sharply defined forms, he reached the height of his skills from c1912-25. He trained in Munich as an architect, but moved into poster design when he moved to Berlin in 1911. By 1925 he had produced over 3,000 graphic designs, including for clients in the US, where he travelled during the 1920s.
What is less known is that he produced a range of designs for enamelled glass around 1910 or 1911, before he embarked on the career that would make his name. He was commissioned by Eduard Rau, a major retailer and agent for the Theresienthaler glassworks who was based in Munich. The glass was produced by Theresienthaler, and sold by Rau.
Only one original source from the period exists, a catalogue from Rau. It makes for interesting reading. The majority of the glass produced was tableware, including beakers and a pitcher/jug, but other forms were offered. Bodies were in a thickly blown bubbly glass, which sometimes has a green-ish tinge. The exteriors were decorated with large, stylised and almost cartoonish figures designed by Hohlwein, and painted on thickly in bold coloured enamels. Even at the time, they were described as ‘karikaturen’ – caricatures.
Subject matter chosen for the characters depicted was huge, with over 150 designs. Unsurprisingly, the typical characters found in and around Munich (Münchener Kindl) were shown, but other subjects included country folk such as farmers and hunters, sports including bowling and horse-racing, and ‘occupations’ such as waitress, singer, and Lieutenant. I found the choices of Dutch characters and students rather unusual, however! They are all decorated in ‘the round’, meaning you have to pick up the piece and turn it around in your hand, or move around it, to see the whole of the design. Drinking beakers cost 1,5 DM, a 3L pitcher/jug cost 10 DM, and a ‘set’ cost 19DM. No other prices are given.
I was drawn to find all this out after purchasing a very unusual vase (above, with details left and below), with an enamelled flute player sitting down surrounded by cats. He is undoubtedly one of the ‘occupations’ – in this case, a street entertainer. And the herd of ‘singing’ cats are a nice touch! Although cylindrical like the beakers, it differs from them due to the height (15.5cm) and the bun-shaped foot.
Vases appear to be many times rarer than beakers, partly because many beakers would have been made than vases – you’d buy more than one beaker, particularly in a set, than a vase, which you’d usually only buy one of. What marks this vase out as interesting too is the lack of wording – most other pieces had related words related to the subject matter. A rare thing illustrating a moment in time, both in terms of style and design, and subject matter. And by a legendary designer too…
To see the full Eduard Rau catalogue of Hohlwein designs, please click here to visit Stephan Buse’s website on rummers from Theresienthal.
I’d like to thank Mike & Debby Moir for identifying my purchase before I even had time to unpack it after getting home from our buying trip together!