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1920s Brass Dish Flower by Georg Mendelssohn

A very charming 1920s brass bowl in the shape of a flower signed Georg Mendelssohn.

Georg Mendelssohn (born Georg von Mendelssohn, born 1866 in Dorpat, Germany in 1955 in Baden-Baden) was a German craftsman.

Georg Mendelssohn was born in Dorpat (today Tartu, Estonia) as the second-oldest son of the old philologist and professor Ludwig Mendelssohn (1852-1896) and the Baltic landlady’s daughter Alexandrine von Cramer (1849-1922) and was baptized Lutheran as his father. He belongs to the German-Jewish group of merchants, scholars and artists, Mendelssohn of Jever, who goes back to Moses Mendelssohn (not identical to the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn). His siblings were the graphic artist and writer Ania Teillard (1889-1978), the writer Erich von Mendelssohn (1887-1913) and the supervisory board Walter von Mendelssohn (1883-1955).

After his father’s death in 1896, the mother moved to Jena , where he went to school and graduated from high school with Georg and his three siblings. Already during the following history studies in Kiel and Jena he began to produce chains and jewelery autodidactically. The Jena professor of classical archeology and art history, Botho Graef, to whom his uncle Erich von Mendelssohn had a close contact, advised him to be a professional artisan, but Georg Mendelssohn “always wanted to invent the same and not work out the bad patterns that his teacher abandoned him.”

As a twenty-year-old, he went to Italy and, together with the writer Theodor Däubler and the later publisher Jakob Hegner, formed a colony of artists in Forte dei Marmi (Tuscany). While the friends wrote novels and poems, Georg Mendelssohn designed a system of ornamentation, which has been lost, as well as jewelry chains made of iron wire. In 1907 he left Italy to study at the Teaching and Experimental Studio for Applied and Free Art by Wilhelm von Debschitz , the Debschitz School . There he met the fellow student Gerta Maria Meta Clason and married her a little later. She received a total of four children: the firstborn Peter (1908-1982), the twins Margot (1910-1982) and Thomas (1910-1945) and the lateborn Felix (1918-2008).

Under the influence of the Munich craftsman circle around Richard Riemerschmid , Georg Mendelssohn moved on to mint work and became a member of the German Werkbund . Participation in the exhibition “Munich 1908”, a predecessor of the later Gewerbeschau, gave the young artist a first success. [5] Two years later, he won a Grand Prix at the Brussels World Exposition for twenty-four years . [6]
In the spring of 1910 Georg Mendelssohn – motivated by Wolf Dohrn – moved with his family to the artists’ colony Hellerau near Dresden . [7] As an avant-garde microcosm, Hellerau attracted numerous artists and intellectuals.Thus Mendelssohn lived at the Pillnitz-Moritzburger Weg 3, where the family had a double house built by the Munich friend Richard Riemerschmid with Karl Schmidt , among others Paul Adler , Else Lasker-student , Franz Kafka , Rainer Maria Rilke , Franz Werfel and Oskar Kokoschka . Georg Mendelssohn’s closest friends included the publisher Jakob Hegner as well as the painter Conrad Felixmüller . [8] Felixmüller created a family portrait of the family Mendelssohn in 1919, which was later destroyed and from which only a watercolor sketch of the daughter Margot is preserved. Franz Kafka characterized Georg Mendelssohn in a letter from the autumn of 1921 as follows:

“George von Mendelssohn I know briefly, he certainly does not remember me, but he can not be forgotten, a giant long, northern-looking man with a small, terribly energetic bird-face, one is frightened by his nature, his short-cut speech Every possible case rejecting attitude, but you do not need to be frightened, he does not mean it is evil, at least not on average of his behavior and is absolutely reliable. He is at the center of the German art scene, has an art smithy in Hellerau, and is, in all respects, one of the ‘knowing ones’ of the art world. ” [9]

Mendelssohn was called “the raven” by his family and friends. At a young age he was operated on the neck, and in order to conceal the remaining large scar, he always carried particularly high collars, which, in conjunction with his incisive nose, gave him the physiognomy of a raven. Georg Mendelssohn was a gifted and artistically diverse gifted and acquired the reputation of a talented metal artist and goldsmith. For example, in 1913, four employees in his Hellerau workshop produced several copies of his designs. Despite the intermittent success, the life of the Mendelssohn family was fundamentally financed by the wife’s family assets.

In the spirit of the goal of the Deutsches Werkbund, Georg Mendelssohn sought the rich ornamentation of fading art nouveau in his metal work a great simplicity in shaping, combined with almost expressive ornaments. For instance, he used bronze or brass as a material for bowls, plates, trays, and belt clasps, which he stained and sparsely decorated. This “primitive style” attracted the attention of the public at the time, and the work of Georg Mendelssohn found numerous imitators, among others Karl Wildhagen who worked with wrought iron or Albert Kahlenbrandt with his roughly hammered brass brooches.

Georg Mendelssohn was rather indifferent to his title. While he was still acting as Georg von Mendelssohn in his Munich period, he left Hellerau to sign his works and correspondence without the “von”. In 1914, Mendelssohn volunteered for the war service and returned to Hellerau only after the war. In 1918, in a “revolutionary change”, he presented the nobility title for himself and his family. While his newborn son, Felix, was registered in the birth certificate without the title of noblesse, he had crossed his competencies with his three remaining children. They were able to decide on the survival of their nobility by reaching the age of majority and kept it. Back to the contact of his mother Alexandrine, Georg Mendelssohn was closely friends with the reform pedagogue Paul Geheeb and sent his son Felix for four years to his Odenwaldschule.

Back in Hellerau, Georg Mendelssohn, together with the architect Heinrich Tessenow and the publisher Jakob Hegner , headed the craftsmen community founded in 1919 and continued the work on his metal work. On the pressure of his friend Hegner, in 1921/1922, he developed the expressionist Mendelssohn type, whose stamp he himself cut. The Mendelssohn type was used, among other things, in the printing of an edition of Schiller’s robbers at the Avalun publishing house as well as for Melchior Vischer’s “Teemeister”.

With his sister Anja Mendelssohn (later Ania Adamkiewicz-Mendelssohn, then Ania Teillard, 1889-1978), the versatile gifted author published in 1928 the book “Man in manuscript.”

In 1922 the marriage of the Mendelssohns was divorced. Georg Mendelssohn married the Hellerauer artist Eva von Stössel and got her daughter Eva-Maria with her 1924. His ex-wife Gerta Maria Meta Clason married the radio commentator Walter von Cube in 1929 and settled with him in Nonnenhorn on Lake Constance. Later the couple separated and Gerta Clason went with her son Felix first to Austria, later to Switzerland and 1945 to the USA, where she lived first with her daughter Margot and then with her youngest son Felix and 1961 died.

In 1933 Georg Mendelssohn emigrated to France before the National Socialists, where he became acquainted with his third wife, Claude. His eldest son, Peter emigrated to Vienna and Paris in the same year, and then to England in 1936. His son Thomas went to Turkey to promote his daughter, Margot, to the United States. The youngest son, Felix, spent the war years in neutral Switzerland and later also went to the USA. As a German, Georg Mendelssohn was interned in Maisons-Laffitte for a few months at the outbreak of war, until his French wife obtained his release.

Even after the war, Georg Mendelssohn stayed in France, where he lived, among other places, in Nice, and again made necklaces of wire. He died in 1955 during a spa stay at the Bühlerhöhe in Baden-Baden after a stroke and was buried in Paris .

The majority of his artistic work was destroyed or lost in the war, a part is in private ownership as well as in the collection of the Kunstgewerbemuseum at Pillnitz Castle in Dresden.

Georg von Mendelssohn today commemorates a guided tour through the Hellerau garden town.

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