Open Wed-Sun 11.00-18.00 / 17 Lai Street Tallinn, 10133 Estonia


PRESS RELEASE 01.07.2015

Furniture designs by Anna von Maydell
for the Atelier für Kunstgewerbe



The Museum Applied Art and Design received a valuable donation last autumn from a Finnish collector who had happened to get hold of a collection of furniture sketches, with some additional ones for silverware and textiles. Most of them are signed by Anna von Maydell and bear a signage consisting of capital letters AFK referring to the 1904 founded workshop Atelier für Kunstgewerbe. The collection of the Museum of Applied Art and Design is mainly focused on the 20th century and contemporary material. For several reasons there is quite a little material survived and preserved from the very beginning of the last century and the period is also scantly researced from the point of view of local applied art and design. Therefore the museum is especially happy for the addition on its collection.


The workshop was founded in 1904 in Tallinn by young female artists Anna Elisabeth von Maydell (1861–1943), Marie Magdalene (Magda) Luther (1872–1947), Bertha Helena Ebba Weiss (1869–1947) and Caroline Augusta Bertha (Lilly) Walther (1866–1946). Foundation of the workshop took place at the time of handicraft developing more and more into a professional field of art. It was a bold and contemporary initiative by artists who had gained their education from several schools in Europe and who relying on that, were full of ambition to develop local applied art.


According to the research of art historians Rein Loodus and Mai Levin all of the young ladies were highly and diversely educated. Anna von Maydell had studied in Tallinn (1885–1890) by F. Deppen, at Munich Kunstgewerbeschule (1908–1909) and in Helsinki (1915–1917) by E. Ehrström. Magda Luther was studying in Helsinki, Paris ja Munich spcializing on interior design, Ebba Weiss in Tallinn, Berlin ja Paris, Lilli Walther in St Peterburg, Sevres, Berlin, Weimar and Jena focusing on porcelain and ceramics. In 1903–1904 they had all been attending the art cources of Ants Laikmaa in Tallinn.


The scope of the workshop was broad and intense, activities were adveritised as providing and producing in different fields of applied art according to original designs. For the first time they were exhibiting their work already in a few months after the founding displaying besides furniture also the works of textile, leather and glass.


Being an innovative initiative of the time, the endeavour gained positive feedback among the wider art circles. The artist Ants Laikmaa, who was well known for his critical mind, praised the activities of the workshop in the midst of the then quite poor scenery of the handicraft. At the grand applied art exhibition in Riga in 1906–1907 the collection of the workshop was considered the best. It is known that from the 1908 exhibition in St. Petersburg the empress Anna Feodorovna acquired one brass jardeniere by Maydell. The worshop was also active in organising exhibitions ja for the 1909 exhibition of agriculture they set up a section of applied art with invited artists from Tartu, Riga and St. Petersburg.


The material on display here, the designs for furniture, is only one field the workshop was known for and by the author who is mainly known to have worked with metal and leather. It is the proof of the character of commissions and broad array of proposals from historical styles and more contemporary modifications of art nouveau testifying also the good knowledge of historical furniture and different styles. After the closure of the workshop in 1914 its founders did not disappear from the art scenery. Magda Luther continued at the Atelier für Raumkunst focusing on designing and advising on furniture and other interior decoration matters. Anna von Maydell gave private lessons in art history and instructed applied art courses. She left Estonia in 1939. Most of the ladies continued to some extent participating in art exhibitions.


Little known of the extent of the survived and exhibited sketches being executed. Some of the works are published at the annual Jahrbuch für bildende Kunst in den Ostseeprovinzen. The precise counting can be witnessed in the numbers used on the sketches approacing almost 300. The ones donated to the museum are only a part of it. There is additional material used from private collection to complement the exhibition.


The work is displayed in this numeral sequence and not grouped by stylistic character, to share the joy and announce the versatility and amount of the vivid professional shoot of the early 20th century Estonia. Unfortunately it is not much known about the other designs of executed work of the workshop. Therefore it is just a fragment of the larger picture. Hopefully the exhibition provides the opportunity to revise the survived furniture heritage with a fresh take.


Further information:

Kai Lobjakas

tel +372 5648 6977


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