Covered Server

Margarete Heymann-Marks Löbenstein (German, 1899 – 1990), Covered Server, ca. 1930, Stoneware with handpainted design. The William L. and Erma M. Travis Endowment for the Decorative Arts, 2003.021.002.


Who made it?

The ceramic artist Margarete Heymann-Marks Löbenstein or Margarete Heymann-Marks or Margarete Heymann-Löbenstein or Grete Marks may be known by many different names around the world, but the one thing that does not vary is her work. Her functional ceramic pieces are composed of simple shapes like circles and triangles. Her pieces are clean-lined in form and covered bright glazes—yellows and blues were frequent favorites. Löbenstein often added simple geometric patterns to the surfaces of her pieces.

Löbenstein initially studied painting at the Cologne School of Arts and then the Academy of Fine Arts in Dusseldorf. She was then accepted to the Bauhaus School of Arts in Weimar, Germany, where she spent only a year. At the Bauhaus, she tried to study ceramics but faced sexism (the school claimed to treat artists equally but guided many of its female students into the weaving program which was seen as an appropriate female art form) and butted heads with the ceramics instructor.

Shortly after leaving the Bauhaus, Löbenstein married, and together the couple started the Hael-Werkstätten pottery factory where she was able to produce her designs. The factory thrived, at its height employing 120 people and exporting pieces to Britain and the United States. Her husband’s sudden death in a car crash in 1929, the economic depression of the 1930s, and increasing oppression by the Nazis forced Löbenstein to sell the factory and flee to Britain with her family. There she opened another pottery factory called Grete Pottery, where she sold new designs and earlier ones from her time in Germany. This pottery was shut down when World War II began. After closing two pottery factories during her career, Löbenstein turned away from pottery and back to painting. 

What’s going on in this work?

This serving dish is made of stoneware, a type of pottery that is fired at high temperatures to make it non-porous. Like other types of pottery (earthenware and porcelain), stoneware is made from clay, but stoneware is more durable than other kinds of pottery (its name comes from its stone-like qualities). Stoneware also distributes and retains heat more evenly, making it ideal for serving hot foods and liquids.

When we talk about ceramic vessels, we use words typically used when describing the human body. Vessels can have a foot, a body, a shoulder, a mouth, and a lip. Starting at the bottom of this piece, we can see a thin aqua line running around the edge of the foot. As we move up to the gently curved body of the dish, we are greeted with thin lines that run around the entire piece stopping as they meet two differently patterned circles. The body stops suddenly at the lip of the vessel, which is crisp and straight. The lid nestles flush into the lip and is decorated with a complementary pattern to the one found on the body—thin arcing lines and patterned circles. The lid is crowned with a handle of two vertically oriented circular discs. The entire piece is clean and modern in its form and designs. The influence of the Bauhaus and other modern artists is suggested, but how they are brought together and realized in the final vessel is uniquely Löbenstein’s creation.

Take a closer look.

Click on the full images of Covered Server above to see larger versions of the work. Look closely at the vessel and use these questions to guide your looking. Share your thoughts with your family and friends virtually or with us by responding to this email.

  • If you could hold this vessel in your hands, what do you think it would feel like? Would it be heavy or light? Smooth or rough? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What words would you use to describe the shape of this vessel? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What words would you use to describe the designs on this vessel? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • Did the words that came to mind to describe the form and the design complement each other? Why or why not?

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Engage with the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art by exploring their collection through background information and reflection questions. For more information on the collections, please visit the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art website.

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July 9, 2020

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