Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate
This is the first American exhibition to explore Grete Marks’s story, an emotionally tragic tale of a forward-looking artist who was crushed by the brutal circumstances of her political time. Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate presents a narrative of the artist Margarete Heymann-Löbenstein-Marks (German, 1899–1990) through approximately forty artworks, and was developed by the Milwaukee Art Museum with the cooperation of her daughter, Dr. Frances Marks.
The Modern ceramics created within Grete’s Haël Werkstätten factory (Marwitz, 1923–33), with their machine precision, loose brushwork, and attention to vernacular German traditions, show the Bauhaus teaching’s thorough influence on the artist. In 1934 an agent for the German Nazi government purchased the Haël factory for far below its estimated value, and in 1935 Grete’s artwork was publically derided as part of Joseph Goebbels’ “degenerate” art campaign. Grete’s later ceramics made in England, arguably lacking the artistic vision of the earlier work, suggest that the magic and the promise of the bold young German artist was destroyed, like so much else, in World War II.
- Margarete Heymann-Löbenstein-Marks, Manufactured by Haël Werkstätten, Teapot, ca. 1930. Purchase, by exchange M2011.17.1a,b. Photo by John R. Glembin.