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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Johann Joachim Kändler

Johann Joachim Kändler

German, 1706-1775

Johann Joachim Kändler

Sculptor and porcelain modeler Johann Joachim Kändler was born on June 15, 1706 in Fischbach, Germany. He began his career in 1723 in Dresden, where he worked with court sculptor Benjamin Thomae and was involved in the decoration of the Grünes Gewölbe in the Dresden Royal Palace.

In 1730, Kändler was appointed court sculptor by Frederick-Augustus I, Elector of Saxony. By June of 1731, he was employed as a modeler at the Meissen Porcelain Factory. During the first two years of this appointment, Kändler collaborated with Johann Gottlob Kirchner. After Kirchner left Meissen in 1733, Kändler was appointed Modellmeister, head of Meissen’s modeling studio. He would retain this position until his death.

Kändler was known as an expert figural modeler. In the early 1730s, he created a series of large, white porcelain birds and animals to decorate the Elector’s Japanisches Palais. Kändler followed the success of these large-scale porcelains by creating series of smaller bird and animal figures, which were easier to produce and sell than the large figures. Beginning in 1736, Kändler produced a number of human figures and figure groups, including characters from the commedia dell’arte. In 1744, Kändler collaborated with Peter Reinicke to produce the first complete series of commedia dell’arte figures for the Duke of Weissenfels. This series set the pattern for subsequent series produced by other German porcelain factories.

During his time at Meissen Kändler developed a rivalry with Johann Gregorius Höroldt, head of Meissen’s painter’s studio and kilns. Under Kändler’s direction, moulded decorations on table wares were no longer relegated to handles and spouts, but spread onto the traditionally flat surfaces where Höroldt’s painters exhibited their skills. Kändler was so interested in minimizing painting and creating three-dimensional, moulded surfaces that he eliminated all flat surfaces on his Swan Service, a table service produced between 1737 and 1741 for Heinrich, Graf von Brühl. Painting on the Swan Service was limited to minor decorations, leaving most of the service’s surfaces white. According to Ghenete Zelleke in “An Embarassment of Riches: Fifteen Years of European Decorative Arts” printed in Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, Vol. 28, No. 2, Kändler was “the most important sculptor to put his hand to porcelain in the first half of the eighteenth century” and “transformed tablewares, which had relied heavily on painted decoration for visual interest, into ingeniously conceived, fully three-dimensional forms whose sculptural qualities were further emphasized through painting.”

Kändler died on May 17, 1755 in Meissen.

  • German
  • Meissen Factory
  • Meissen Factory

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