Max Läuger, Germany (1864-1952)
Pitcher, decoration oak leaves and acorns, designed by Max Läuger, around 1898, H20cm D15cm, bearing the KTK markmore

Max Läuger was born in 1864 in the village Lörrach near the Swiss border. From 1881 to 1884 he studied at the Academy of Arts and Crafts in Karlruhe and from there on would develop himself into a multi-talented designer and creator (glass painting, ceramic decoration, industrial design, interior & garden architecture). Here are some of the marks you can find on his ceramics made in Kandern and Karlsruhe during approx. 1882-1938. His designs follow the art nouveau trend of the period called "Jugendstil" in Germany and "Secession" in Austria. Most of his designs are in plant, flower patterns, portraits in heraldic (coin pose) style or human forms surrounded by plants. After 1920 animals appear in his designs. His patterns, i.e. as seen here in oak leaves and acorns (sample 3), are regular, repetitive in the beginning and become more natural, random and filling the whole surface after 1905. A sensational effect was his decoration of moving plants in the wind; from a static to a dynamic form language, a novelty in Germany at that time. The forms and colors, raised in relief on the surface are classical and timeless. We see the influence of japanese woodblock print artists and Wiener Werkstatte ceramics. The way he arranged his initials shows affinity with the initials of designers like Josef Hoffmann or Koloman Moser.

Kandern had many potteries in difficulty at the end of the 19th century. The traditional tiled stoves were build here and they were being replaced by cast iron mass produced ones. The ministry of commerce of the Grand Duke had send ML to Kandern to improve this situation by modernising the ceramic industry. Most factories produced traditional household pottery for local use or roof & stove tiles. The idea was that ML would educate the Hafners (tile-stove builders) and potters in decorating and modelling according to the style and taste of the moment (Art Nouveau/Jugendstil).

ML kept the the local traditional pottery techniques but created new decorative patterns. This enabled him to win goldmedals in Paris in 1900, in Turin 1902, in St. Louis 1904 and the Bruxelles Grand Prix in 1910. The trained eye recognizes a "Läuger" immediately. The pieces produced by KTK (see sample 2 - Kunsttöpferei Tonwerke Kandern) on traditional pottery with designs by ML were considered the highest form of ceramic expression in Germany at the time and influenced many ceramic artists of the 20th century (see also Thun and Steffisburg pottery in the Swiss Art Deco section).
I would like to mention here that part of his succes has to be attributed to the painter Hermann Hakenjos sen. (director of KTK from 1920-1929), who came with ML from Karlruhe in 1895. He was able to put ML's designs so skillfully on the vases that are displayed in museums today all over the world.
The pleasure ML had in creating his patterns still vibrates towards us from the surfaces of his work...

1864 Born on 30th September in Lörrach, Germany
1881-84 Karlsruhe, academy of arts and crafts
1884-98 Karlsruhe, academy of arts & crafts: ass. teacher drawing/modelling
1885 Karlsruhe technical university: studies garden/interior architecture
1893 Kandern, first dated ceramics, wall plates with portraits
1894 Karlsruhe: Professor at the academy
1895-1913 Creative director of Tonwerke Kandern (at the tile factory)
1900 Paris, World Expo, Gold Medal
1904 St. Louis, World Expo, Gold Medal
1907 Co-founder Deutsche Werkbund
1910 Bruxelles, World Expo, Grand Prix
1921-1929 Karlruhe, director design dept. "Staatliche Majolika Manufaktur"
1944 Destruction of his studio in Pinneberg
1944 Receives the "Goethe Medal" (Art & Science) from Albert Speer
1944-1952 Return to Lörrach
1951 Milano, Trienale: Grand Prix
1952 Dies in Lörrach on december 12th

Source: Deutsche Keramik des 20. Jahrhunderts (Hetjens Museum, Düsseldorf) - archives Heimat und Keramik Museum Kandern, own archives

Discovery: René Ben Lisa (1926-1995)
Astonishing minimalist vases by René Ben-Lisa more...
Francis Crociani: discovery of a postcard from 1962
The postcard mentions the purchase of a potter's wheel   more...
Swiss Art Nouveau/Deco pottery from Steffisburg
Discover Thun and Steffisburg pottery   more...