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Frans Wildenhain, Frans Rudolf Wildenhain

Biography to Display: 

1905 Born Leipzig, Germany

1980 Died Rochester, New York


1924 Bauhaus, Weimar and Dornburg, Germany

1926 Passed Craftsman’s Examination before the Guild of Potters, State School of Fine and Applied Arts, Halle-Saale, Germany

1929 Master of Crafts


1918-1923 Four-year apprenticeship to lithographer and graphic craftsman; six months as journeyman, Leipzig, Germany


1922 House painter

1922 Art student

1930 Instructor, pottery, Folkwang School Workshop, Essen-Ruhr, Germany

1930 Teacher, State School of Fine and Applied Arts, Halle-Saale, Germany

1933-1940 Independent workshop, Little Jug, Putten, The Netherlands

1941 Independent workshop, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

1941 Teacher, School of Applied Arts, Amsterdam

1941 Teacher, St. Loiba, Benedictine Convent, Noord, The Netherlands

1947-1950 Independent workshop, Pond Farm, Guerneville, California

1950-1970 Instructor, Pottery and Sculpture, School for American Craftsmen, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York


Frans Wildenhain’s body of work consists of wheel-thrown, reduction-fired stoneware: vases, bowls, plates, tiles, teapots, and lamps, and large vessels, figurative sculpture, and commissioned murals.

Wildenhain’s father and grandfather were craftsmen and carpenters, his grandmother an avid reader introduced to him the classics. In 1923, he attended a lecture by Walter Gropius, applied to the Bauhaus (founded by Gropius), and then attended for one year, working in the kitchen and garden as a poor student, until the school moved and discontinued the pottery shop. He worked with Max Krehan a fourth generation country potter in Dornburg. Gerhard Marcks was also influencial. The lectures he attended at the Bauhaus by Paul Klee “were very well prepared…it was like reading Vedas or going into Buddhism.” After Wildenhain and his wife Marguerite, whom he had met at the Bauhaus, were married, she relocated to the Netherlands and he followed; she subsequently moved to the USA two months before Germany invaded Amsterdam during WWII. Wildenhain was unable to obtain a visa as a German nationalist, in time he was drafted into the German army, and was in the trenches during the battle of Arnhem. They had been separated for seven years when he emigrated to Guerneville, California and Pond Farm in 1947. In 1958 he worked in Mexico, attended the World Clay Conference in Lima, Peru in 1968, and in 1969 worked in Japan (all pots made in Japan were subsequently sold at Shop One, the artist’s co-operative he co-founded in Rochester, New York).  He was divorced from Marguerite in 1950 and married Marjorie McIlroy in 1952, and his third wife, Lili (Elizabeth Brockkardt), in 1969.

The 2010 acquisition of the Robert Johnson Frans Wildenhain Ceramic Collection by the Rochester Institute of Technology is described at:

A profile of the artist and his first wife, Marguerite, on the occasion of his 2012 retrospective at RIT can be found at:

An interview with Frans Wildenhain conducted by Robert Brown for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, is available at:

Public Collections

Public Collections to Display: 

The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland

Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York

Faenza International Museum for Ceramics, Faenza, Italy

Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Indianapolis Art Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana

Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York

Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul, Minnesota

Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Oregon

Stedelijk Museum, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Stoke-on-Trent Museums, Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom

Scripps College, Claremont, California

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois

The Wallace Center, Rochester Institute of Technology Archive Collections, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York


Bibliography to Display: 

Austin, Bruce A. Frans Wildenhain 1950-1975: Creative and Commercial Ceramics at Mid-Century. Rochester, NY: Printing Applications Laboratory, 2012.

Clark, Garth. American Ceramics: 1876 to the Present, Revised Edition. New York, NY: Abbeville Press Publishers, 1987.

Levin, Elaine. The History of American Ceramics: From Pipkins and Bean Pots to Contemporary Forms, 1607 to the Present. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, 1988.

Perry, Barbara. American Ceramics: The Collection of the Everson Museum of Art, New York, NY: Rizzoli International Publishers, 1989.




Typical Marks
ca 1970
Date: 1950-1960
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
The Forrest L. Merrill Collection
The Forrest L. Merrill Collection
Date: 1950-1960
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
The Forrest L. Merrill Collection
The Forrest L. Merrill Collection
Date: ca 1970
Materials: Earthenware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Polychrome
E. John Bullard Collection
E. John Bullard Collection
Weed Pot
Form: Bottle
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
E. John Bullard Collection
E. John Bullard Collection

Citation: "The Marks Project." Last modified March 17, 2023.