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About Frans Wildenhain

Frans Wildenhain (1905-1980) joined the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 1950 as a founding faculty member of the newly installed School for American Craftsmen (SAC). Over the next 20 years, he enriched the School’s curriculum and its students, advanced the craft and art of ceramics, and broadened global appreciation for handcrafted pottery and other goods.

Steeped in modernist ceramic aesthetics, Wildenhain studied under Gerhard Marcks and Max Krehan at the Bauhaus pottery workshop in Dornburg, Germany. There, Wildenhain met another potter, Marguerite Friedlaender, his future wife.

Following World War II, Wildenhain emigrated to the U.S., joining his wife at Pond Farm, an artists’ colony near Guerneville, CA, established by Gordon and Jane Herr.

In 1950, Wildenhain moved to Rochester, NY to initiate and teach at SAC. The School, a vision innovated and brought to life by Mrs. Aileen Vanderbilt Webb, had been unsuccessfully implemented previously at Dartmouth and Alfred colleges.

SAC’s new residency at RIT affirmed and cemented the Institute’s somewhat wandering half-century interest in the arts as nested within an otherwise traditionally technical and manual training school.

Earning prizes for his art at the 1939 International Exposition in Paris and the 1958 Brussels World's Fair, Wildenhain also received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1958, became a Fellow of the American Crafts Council and his work is in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, Everson Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. Large-scale Wildenhain murals were commissioned by Strasenburgh Labs (Rochester, NY), the National Library of Medicine in (Bethesda, MD) and RIT.

Frans Wildenhain retired from RIT in 1970.