Marguerite Friedlaender Wildenhain was born October 11, 1896, in Lyon, France. She was educated in Europe, apprenticing at the Bauhaus under master potter Max Krehan and sculptor Gerhard Marcks. Expelled from the Bauhaus owing to her Jewish origin, she moved to Holland and founded a pottery studio in Putten, in the Netherlands, with her husband, Frans Wildenhain. In 1940, after seven years in Putten, she immigrated to the United States. Frans Wildenhain, also a Bauhaus-trained ceramicist, remained behind, conscripted into the German army. In 1942, Marguerite Wildenhain settled near Guerneville, California, where she founded an artist cooperative known as Pond Farm. Frans Wildenhain (1905-1980) joined her in the late 1940s and they managed the venture together. Soon they added two additional artists, textile artist Trude (Jalowetz) Guermonprez (1910-1976) and metal artist and jewelry maker Victor Ries, who continued at pond farm until 1952. Eventually, Frans and Marguerite Wildenhain divorced and Marguerite became the sole manager of the Pond Farm workshops.
At Pond Farm, about 70 miles north of San Francisco, Wildenhain opened a summer school which lasted until 1980, training approximately 25 students each summer. These summer-long workshops were intense learning experiences for artists, many of whom have had their own distinguished careers. During these years, Wildenhain also traveled extensively, offering workshops at colleges and galleries around the United States. She visited South and Central America, Iran, Israel and Europe. Additionally, she was an active member of the American Craft Council.
Works by Wildenhain are typically signed with the words Pond Farm and include a small jug signet incised on the base. Her ceramic art was shared widely in galleries and museums, and was sold commercially at Gump’s in San Francisco, CA, and in department stores in Chicago, IL, and Dallas, TX. Three books, two films and numerous exhibit catalogs and articles in art reference books document her life and philosophy of art.
Dean Schwarz, former Luther College Art Department faculty member, met Wildenhain in the 1960s and studied with her during many summer workshops. As a result of this relationship, WildenhaIn was introduced to Luther College, teaching students through workshops and lectures. In 1969, Wildenhain was awarded an honorary doctor of humanities degree by Luther College. Luther College received 51 pieces of pottery from Wildenhain in 1973, followed by a collection of her drawings in 1981. At that time, she also donated drawings and woodcuts by Gerhard Marcks, her mentor and life-long friend. Wildenhain also presented rare books to the Luther College Library and contributed her mineral collection to the College’s Geology Collection. After her death at Pond Farm, February 24, 1985, her collection of Gerhard Marcks sculptures and pre-Columbian pots were bequeathed to Luther College.
Marguerite Wildenhain Works in the Luther College Fine Arts Collection.
Pre-Columbian Pottery in the Luther College Fine Arts Collection.