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COLLECTION Identifier: BRM 6

Alexander Dorner Collection of Otti Berger Papers, 1937-1955

Overview

Correspondence, original typescripts, and handwritten notes documenting the career and aesthetic theories of textile artist Otti Berger (1898-1944), her life in continental Europe in the late 1930s, and the early reception of her work in the United States.

Dates

  • 1937-1955

Conditions on Access

Access: Unrestricted

Conditions on Use

Copyright: Copyright in the papers in the collection may be held by the authors of the documents, or the authors’ heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the Harvard Art Museums Archives before publishing images or quotations from any material in the collection.

Copying: Papers may be copied in accordance with the Harvard Art Museums Archives' usual procedures.

Extent

1 collection (1 folder)
These documents are related to the career and aesthetic theories of textile artist Otti Berger, her life in continental Europe in the late 1930s, and the early reception of her work in the United States. Formats include correspondence, original typescripts, and handwritten notes. The materials were collected by German art historian, educator, and museum director Alexander Dorner.

The collection contains a 6-page typescript of Berger’s Weaving and the Shaping of Space (Weberei und Raumgestaltung), which outlined her aesthetic theories relating to textile art. There is also correspondence to Alexander Dorner from Berger and Walter Gropius, as well as letters written about her after her death by Edith A. Standen and Ludwig Hilberseimer. Additional materials include handwritten notes by Alexander and Lydia Dorner.

The records were originally housed in several binders and folders in no specific order. They were rehoused in an archival folder and box in 2013.

Biography

Otti Berger (1898-1944) was a Croatian textile artist and designer. She studied at Bauhaus between 1927 and 1930, taking the Vorkurs (introductory course) under László Moholy-Nagy. In 1931, she began supervising the Textile Workshop from which she had just graduated. She developed a distinctive style based on a fusion of the visual and the haptic inspired by Alois Riegl and Moholy, a close cooperation between textile design and industrial production, and an emphasis on the way in which textiles shape interior spaces. In 1932, she left the Bauhaus to open an “Atelier for Textile” in Berlin, but was forced to close it in 1936 when she was banned from working in Germany due to her Jewish origins. She then traveled to the United Kingdom but was unable to find work there; in 1938, she was invited by Moholy to join the New Bauhaus in Chicago, but had difficulties obtaining a visa. She returned instead to Croatia to visit her ailing mother. Unable to leave the country after the outbreak of World War II, Berger was deported with her family to the concentration camps in April 1944 and died in Auschwitz.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. Series I: Prewar documents, 1937-1938
  2. Series II: Postwar documents, 1955

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated to the Busch-Reisinger Museum by Alexander Dorner’s widow, Lydia Dorner, in 1958.

Related Material

This material complements the accessioned works of art and design by Otti Berger in the Busch-Reisinger Museum collection, which include a selection of fabric samples and a manuscript entitled Instructions for Weaving and Dyeing. The Harvard Art Museums Archives holds related materials in the Busch-Reisinger Museum Bauhaus Collection. Additional papers related to Otti Berger are held by Houghton Library in the Walter Gropius Papers. (MS Ger 208).

General note

Names
  1. Bauhaus.
  2. Berger, Otti, 1898-1944.
  3. Busch-Reisinger Museum.
  4. Dorner, Alexander, 1893-1957.
  5. Gropius, Walter, 1883-1969.
  6. Kuhn, Charles L. (Charles Louis), 1901-.
  7. Hilberseimer, Ludwig.
  8. Standen, Edith Appleton.
Subjects
  1. Knitting.
  2. Textile artists.
  3. Textile crafts.
  4. Weaving.
Form/Genre Terms
  1. correspondence
  2. manuscripts
  3. resume

Processing Information

The collection was processed in February 2013 by Raphael Koenig, under the supervision of Lynette Roth and Megan Schwenke. The finding aid was revised in July 2014 by Brooke McManus. The finding aid was encoded in May 2016 by Michelle Interrante.
Link to catalog
Title
Alexander Dorner Collection of Otti Berger Papers (BRM 6), 1937-1955: A Guide
Author
Harvard Art Museums Archives
EAD ID
art00039

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Art Museums Archives Repository

The Harvard Art Museums Archives is the official repository for institutional records and historical documents in all formats relating to the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, 1895 to the present. Its collections include significant papers of individuals and groups associated with the museums' history, as well as correspondence with collectors, gallery owners, museum professionals, and notables throughout the twentieth century. Its holdings also document the formation of the museums' collections and its mission as a teaching institution.

Contact:
32 Quincy Street
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
617-495-2384