Cake Plate

Thing of the Month November 2019
Cake Plate

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Cake Plate Décor 6768. Stoneware Factory Grünstadt, 1935. Spray-Decorated Stoneware. Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum of Things, Berlin. Photo: Armin Herrmann, 2019.

This cake plate with its wedge-shaped spray pattern was manufactured by the stoneware factory Grünstadt AG in 1935. The geometrical design of its décor #6768 together with the constructivist dynamic of the wedge can be read in reference to the revolutionary propaganda poster Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge (1919/1920) by the Russian artist El Lissitzky.

However, this political interpretation clashes with the simultaneous national-socialist practice of outlawing abstract, modernist designs since 1933. Additionally, Grünstadt AG advertised this design as a novelty in 1935—the same year the company got »Aryanised«. In consequence, the Jewish brothers Alfred and Eugen Siegel, who were the main shareholders of the firm at the time, were forced to give up their stocks. The following year, Heinrich Kalau vom Hofe took over the factory, which consecutively produced almost exclusively flowery patterns.

In 1910, the stoneware factory Grünstadt AG had already started to use spray-decoration for ceramics. While they started out applying mostly patterns of fruit and flowers, the late 1920s brought about a switch towards abstract and geometrical designs, which had been widely popular during that time already. During the mid-1930s, however, this style of composition receded rapidly in a return to traditional compositions. It is all the more remarkable that the Grünstadt AG as one of the most successful German stoneware factories of its time still advertised such a modernist design in 1935.

Our Thing of the Month is on display since 10 October 2019 as part of the special exhibition »Decoration as Trespass?«, which is devoted to the popular spray décor of the 1920s and 1930s and the associated socio-economic and technical-artistic discourses.