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Danish Ceramics VII - The Turn of the Century
by Tove Jespersen, Klitgaarden Antique & Ceramics

Herman August Kähler Pottery, Nestved (on Zealand) 1839-1974

Map of Denmark

Posterity can thank potter Joachim Christian Herman Kähler (1808-1884) that he left the duchy Holstein in 1839 and established a workshop in Nestved. This way, the foundation stone to the biggest flagship within the Danish ceramics, was laid. In the first 30 years he produced all-night burners, spring water jars and articles for the everyday use in the kitchen. In 1872 his sons Herman August Kähler (1846-1917) and Carl Frederik Kähler (1850-1920) took over the pottery. Herman August took over the production of all-night burners. He however followed his intuition and started his own workshop, and in 1875 he established what we today know as Kählers Pottery in Nestved. Carl was left alone and decided to sell his part.

Herman August Kähler introduced the signature, which since that time has been the mark on all Kählers products. In 1883 Vilhelm Klein (1835-1913, architect) from "the Copenhagen Drawing School for Women" was looking for a pottery where he could have his students' ceramics fired. This resulted in a co-operation with Herman August Kähler. This co-operation gave Herman August the inspiration to start production of other items than all-night burners. He experimented again and again with glazes. The target was a red luster glaze, like the one used by the Italian maestro Giorgio from Gubbio in the 16th century. In 1888 he presented a ruby glaze which made him world famous. This ruby is today known as "Kähler red".

Herman A. Kähler, 1890 (Kähler Rød)

In the meantime artists were eager to be a part of the Kähler studio in Nestved. Between 1885-1907 Hans Andersen Brendekilde (1857-1942, painter) decorated some items with motifs from fairytales and legendary figures - Trolls and witches. From 1886-1888 Carl Ove Julian Lund known as "deaf Lund" (1857-1936, china painter) tried fine underglaze painting; but this technique wasn't as good on ceramics as on china, so this failed. From 1888-1914 Karl Hansen-Reistrup (1863-1929, painter and visual artist) became artistic leader of the pottery. He had a close cooperation with Herman August The vases and pots that he designed and Herman August turned, was decorated with modeled animal heads, which in their art-nouveau style was perfect suitable for the new "Kähler red" luster glaze. This cooperative work was presented at the World Exhibition in Paris 1889. The public was carried away by the "Kähler red" and with one stroke Kähler was world famous. Many international Museums made purchases.

Hansen-Reistrup produced a number of wall friezes - among those the "Peacock-frieze" in 1897, which was sold to the National Museum in Stockholm. The "Eagle-frieze" which can be seen at the Sèvres-Museum. Also the elephants at the Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen are his work. From 1889-1890 Laurits Andersen Ring (1854-1933, painter) produced only a few things - he preferred painting. In 1896 he married the daughter of Herman August Sigrid Kähler (1874-1923). Before her marriage Sigrid worked with flower decorations at the pottery.

From 1890-1891 Thorvald Bindesboell (1846-1908, architect and sculptor) was designing vases and pots with sgraffito (scratched patterns) and slipping in abstract motifs, in the French "Art Nouveau" style (period 1890-1910) in Germany it was called "Jugendstil" and in Denmark "Skoenvirke". The Skoenvirke or the Jugendstil was a bit later and longer in Denmark. It was the same Style but the period was 1890-1920. Bindesboell is very dominating - a prima donna - and he doesn't find that there is room enough for both him and Hansen-Reistrup. Herman August did not agree and the message to Bindesboell was "If you don't like the heat, get out of the kitchen". The years are extremely successful. The Kähler Pottery is winning prizes on exhibitions all over the world. They are selling to the leading galleries and art museums both in Europe and USA.

Herman H.C.Kähler, 1910Herman H.C. Kähler, 1910Herman H.C. Kähler, 1915

From 1901 the son of Herman August - Herman Hans Christian Kähler (1876-1940) takes over the leadership. A new era begins. Herman Hans Christian was tired of the "Kähler Red" and thought that it was time for a change. He was, like his contemporary Bertel Ipsen, from P. Ipsens Enke, fascinated by Bindesboell and his slipped ceramics. So it was a stroke of luck when Svend Hammershoei arrived to the pottery and started his production of slipped ceramics. From 1908 Herman Hans Christian takes up the horn painting again. This technique suits the pots good and ceramics decorated with slipped horn painting is typical for what we today associate with the "Kähler Style". The Horn Painting was a difficult technique. The tool was a hollowed cow horn with a goose quill. The horn was filled up with the slip, which afterwards was dosed through the goose quill, used as a pen. Herman Hans Christian and his journeymen mastered the craft and often up to 10 horns were used at the same time decorating a vase. The first items were decorated in dark brown, blue and green with patterns in the Jugendstyle (Skoenvirke). Later on both colors and patterns became lighter.

1920’erneDekoration Signe Steffensen, 19251940’erne



Svend Hammershoei (1873-1948 painter) was the artist who had the longest cooperation with Kähler from 1893-1948 . In those years he developed all the time which is also reflected in his ceramics. Maybe he found inspiration while he was occupied with other activities as painting and writing (about Bindesboell). He had worked together with Bindesboell in the 1890s at G. Eifrig, Copenhagen Pottery. It was a tempestuous cooperation where Hammershoei's great skill was put to use. Often he turned and did the modeling according to Bindesboell's drawings and then Bindesboell just signed the works. In the beginning his vases and pots with slipped relief decoration in leaf ornamentation, was clearly impressed by Bindesboell. Later he tried an antique terracotta design, also with leaves ornamentations or with stamped impressions. Hammershoei then moved in the direction of geometrical design, with characteristic profiling, often fixed with small modeled"buds". These items with the gray/black/white glaze (invented by Jens Thirslund) was an enormous success and today it is the kind of Kähler- ceramics which people associate with Hammershoei. Hammershoei never got married and had no children, but in his studio and on his many journeys his substitute children - his dolls - followed him.

1913-1941 - Jens Thirslund (1892-1942 painter). In 1914 he married Herman August's daughter, Stella Kähler (1886-1948, decorator). He became artistic leader of the factory. Thirslund had an born talent for painting. A bohemian type, who set up his own area in the pottery as a real artistic den filled with all sorts of goods and chattels from floor to roof. It became a rendezvous for the artists from all over. The artistic inspiration he derived from the Oriental was often spiced with a sense of humor. He became a true master in painting with luster glazes.

Svend Hammershøi, 1920’erneJens og Stella Thirslund, 1915

In 1917 Herman August Kähler dies. After the 1st world war the number of agents worldwide were extended. Kähler ceramics were represented at most recognized museums, e.g. in the USA at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Items were sold through Zacho & Co in Hollywood, the Frankl Galleries in New York and The Associated Merchandising Cooperation.

Orangegul uranglasur, 1930’erneNils Kähler, stempeldek. 1930’erneSgrafitto teknik, 1940’erne

After Herman Hans Christian's death in 1940 the 4th generation takes over. Nils Joakim Kähler (1906-1979, potter) takes care of the artistic side and Herman Joergen Kähler (1904-1996, potter) takes care of administration and glaze production. Nils Kähler had been working together with Hammershoei and continued this style, in a modern version with the gray/black/white Thirslund glaze. Cylindrical design in stoneware with yellow and turquoise glaze, often with stamped decorations in fishbone pattern. Besides the mark, Nils Kähler always signed his items with 'Nils'. Nils Kähler left his stamp on the factory until 1968, when the two brothers separate and the factory closes in 1974. An era is finished in Danish ceramics but the many Kähler journeymen, who started their own potteries, all over Denmark uphold the grand traditions and the Kählers have for ever put their stamp on Danish ceramics.

Nils Kähler, 1960-70Nils Kähler, 1960-70Nils Kähler, saltglaseret 1970

Part 1 > Jens Michael Andersen
Part 2 > L.Hjorts Terracotta Factory, Roenne, Bornholm
Part 3 > Soeholm, Roenne on Bornholm
Part 4 > P. Ipsens Enke, Copenhagen
Part 5 > Kongstrands Pottery, Esberg
Part 6 > Potteries and Potters around Horsens
Part 7 > - The Turn of the Century

Article kindly supplied by Tove Jespersen Klitgaarden Antique & Ceramics, Denmark. www.Klitgaarden.net e-mail: Klitgaarden@tdcadsl.dk

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