Last day in Hamburg

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In the morning the group stopped at some Stolpersteine outside the building where one of our number had once lived. He had been sent to England on a Kindertransport, and the stones commemorated his parents and little brother. What more can I say?

The afternoon was spent – exhaustingly but enjoyably – exploring much of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe. Each section was the perfect size to inform but not overwhelm. Visiting all the sections would have led to complete brain frazzle, so I spent most of my time in the Jugendstil and  Moderne galleries. They had some Charles Ronnie Mackintosh furniture from Miss Cranston’s tea rooms (and I hadn’t realised how important weaning Glaswegians off alcohol was here) and some Wiener Werkstätte items, including a chair from the Postsparkasse. Plenty of French Art Nouveau whiplash shapes, which brought home to me how much I prefer Henry van der Velde’s less “vegetal” designs to Horta and Mucha. There was some of his furniture from a Lübeck businessman’s house which combined simplicity, elegance and functionality. Perhaps I’m coming round to Adolf Loos’s views on Ornament und Verbrechen in 1908: it’s a crime to bother with ornament, which depends on time-consuming handicrafts, and results in the piece soon going out of fashion. Finally, having seen the house that Peter Behrens designed in Northampton, I was surprised to see how decorative his early designs were.

I particularly liked the 1926 Frankfurt Kitchen design by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky for doing its utmost to make kitchen work as rational as possible. You can’t get away from peeling vegetables and cooking them, but you can make it straightforward. I guess this conformed to Loos’s strictures: it was functional and could be mass-produced.

I could definitely live with these chairs:

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Armchairs from Finland by Akseli Gallén-Kallela, ca. 1899

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