Monday, 13 September 2010

Albin Muller and Textile Design

Illustration: Albin Muller. Weaving example, c1910.

The German architect and designer Albin Muller had an interesting education, more practically based than most and it was no doubt this early phase of his life that gave Muller both the confidence and the functional wherewithal to achieve design work that was both practical and believable in its sincerity and scope.

Muller was initially trained as a carpenter by his father who was also a carpenter. From there he went first to Mainz and then Dresden eventually going onto a career in education in 1900 at the Arts & Crafts School in Magdeburg. It was here, through the teaching of the practical application of design and decoration, twinned with his ongoing carpentry skills, he continued to produce furniture throughout this period, Muller came to a better understanding of the practical applications and limits of design and decoration. It was here that he began to pull away from the prevailing Art Nouveau sensibilities that were fashionable throughout Europe, and to concentrate on a means of practical, realistic, even paired down application of decoration and pattern.

Illustration: Albin Muller. Weaving example, c1910.

Muller's work can in some ways be seen as part of the German movement towards a more radically structured decorative style that had a passing resemblance to the clinical and repetitive composition of the machine and general mechanised production methods. Interestingly, for a while Muller was also part of the Darmstadt artist's colony, a focal point for so many of Germany's later leading architects and designers.

Although both the Arts & Crafts movement along with that of Art Nouveau, did have a huge impact on architecture, design, decoration and craft in Germany, the limits of hand-production in particular were quickly and clearly recognised and a number of parallel organizations and workshops were established in order to promote an understanding between both designer and industry in order to produce the seemingly best elements of both worlds. Although largely seen as an anathema in Britain in particular, the idea of using design to temper and perhaps even re-direct industry into not only better management of resources and talent, but the improvement of finished products in general was considered a worthy and important element in the development of design and decoration in the early twentieth century.

Illustration: Albin Muller. Weaving example, c1910.

These five examples of Muller's design work for woven fabrics show clearly the direction he was interested in pursuing. Though by no means unique, similar styled work was being produced in Dresden, Munich, Vienna and elsewhere in Central Europe, it is important to recognise that the steps being taken by Muller and others, follows in a direct line towards the Bauhaus and beyond. These examples from about 1910 were part of the theoretical and practical examination of the design world that were being played out in Germany in the years leading up to and even during the First World War.

Illustration: Albin Muller. Weaving example, c1910.

Although Art Nouveau elements within the motifs of these woven examples are clearly evident, they remain both contained within a rigid structure and are also part of an unyielding and uncompromisingly controlled all over pattern. Although Muller's work may not appeal to all, it is still a fascinating preliminary step, one of many, towards the Modernist movement in both design and decoration, and an attempt at least in tempering the industrial world with the prospect of well-balanced and practical design.

Illustration: Albin Muller. Weaving example, c1910.


Reference links: 
Künstler (Magdeburg): Adolf Rettelbusch, Albin Müller, Carl Leberecht Immermann, Paul Mebes, Rolf Herricht, Rainer Basedow, Rüdiger Barton (German Edition)
Product--Design--History: German Design from 1820 Down to the Present Era
The Face of the Twentieth Century: Bauhaus (ArtHaus - Art and Design Series)
The Authority of Everyday Objects: A Cultural History of West German Industrial Design (Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism)
German Design 1870-1918
Graphic Design in Germany: 1890-1945 (Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism)
German Design for Modern Living
Who's Who in German Design
German Modern: Graphic Design from Wilhelm to Weimar (Art Deco Design)

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