In 1996, I was lucky enough to spend last week of August in Munich. Before leaving, I knew in daytime and opening hours the museums of dolls, and of course the schedule of trains for Donauwörth, the city of Käthe KRUSE.
It was my first visit. The weather was beautiful. The very green, very flowery, typically Bavarian landscape, then the town, at the impeccable houses, pink, green, yellow, appearances built with a "construction set", offered the ideal environment for the dolls of Käthe KRUSE.
But before visiting this charming Museum, let us call back who was Käthe KRUSE and her dolls: Käthe KRUSE ( 1883-1968 ), born in Breslau, of her maiden name Katharina SIMON, began her career as actress until her meeting with Max KRUSE, " artist, sculpto the most attractive boy of Berlin ".
Very fast came the first ones of eight children. She spent first years of " her marriage to Ascona (Switzerland ) with her daughters Maria ( Mimerme) and Sofie ( Fifi).
1905, Mimerle wanted a doll. Max received the order to buy one in
Berlin. When he saw the traditional dolls with a porcelain
he said : " not, I " do not buy it ! Make there one yourself ! "
Ingenious Mother, Käthe KRUSE went to the simplest. She tells:
" I Iook a cloth, I filled the middle with some sand, I made knots in four corners, it was arms and legs, and lengthwise, I tied up an potato, it was the head. With a burned match, I drew eyes, mouth and nose. "
This first attempt was quickly followed by many of others.
J. and M. CIESLIK specify that Käthe KRUSE did not love the fashionable, rubber dolls at the beginning of the century, especially because of the metallic whistle with which they were equipped " unbearable for the children ". Girl and wife of sculptor, she had been interested in child's bust, work of François ( or Jerome ) DUQUESNOY', Belgian artist ( 1594-1642 ) said " the Flemish man ", who lived and died in Rome. Author of saint André de Saint-Pierre of Rome and very numerous cherubs, for diverse churches ( The famous "Manneken Pis" of Brussels was attrbued to him)...
A reproduction of the bust of Ascona, this one today in Paris, is to the Museum Käthe KRUSE of Donauwörth. We can see the photo in the encyclopedia of CIESLIK, (N 1071, p. 170). The author compares this child's head with the heads of the first dolls of Käthe KRUSE (N 1072, p. 170) that he certifies exact copy jusques in the measurements.
We wrote that afterward Käthe KRUSE would have been inspired, but much more discreetly by Verrocchio, by Titien, by Murillo. It seems that in the reality, only the "putti" of Luca Della Robbia (Florence 1400-1482) would have been able to influence her "newborn children".
In 1910, her technique seems finalized : face hand-paints on muslins, heads and sewn cloth bodies, then soaked( with a waterproof substance, filled with absorbent cotton, kapok or with mop of hair. For the first time, Käthe KRUSE participates in an exhibition, (theme:Home-made toys)programmed ) for Christmas, by department stores Hermann TIETZ in Berlin. In one night, it is such a success, as she cannot intend to face only the commands. She signs a contract with KAMMER and REINHARDT (Waltenhausen). The result is not satisfactory and the partners part. Another attempt with Hermann HEYDE of Dresden, then with Fischer NAUSMANN, will not have more success. Käthe KRUSE decides to produce only her dolls, leaves Berlin and installs her workshops to Bad Kösen. She managed them until 1950.
Exposition Paris 1937 Pavillon Allemand Stand Kathe Krüse
A droite, très beau Bébé Käthe Kruse 1930 ➞
In 1911, she receives the big golden medal to Florence, a first prize to Frankfort, another first prize and a diploma of honor to Breslau
But doll Käthe KRUSE takes gains more that honorary successes: the commands stream, and for the first time, 150 dolls are going to leave to the United States, next year.
The brand is deposited. Later, the exhibition of Ghent, in 1923, will award her witth its Grand Prix .
Encouraged this one develops the production. The current event, we are in 1914, inspires the manufacturing of small soldiers dressed there " fels grau " with spiked helmet. Then, small dolls and life-size models for shop windows. The children work with their mother and make Käthe KRUSE Studios an business of family. The department " small soldiers " (Height 11 cms ., price 2 DM) extends to the foreign, friendly or enemy armies: English people, Austrians, Belgians, colonial, French, Russian, Serbian.... Etc. Dolls -43cm-. will be dressed in German officers.
Always opposite to the steepness of the china, Käthe KRUSE looks for more and more the flexibility for her production. She invents flexible skeletons (Hundreds of small dolls so presented all the positions that could set her dolls, who give to all her creations their definitive character
They will be indestructible, washable, soft, hand-made and marked under the left foot of the plug - signature " Käthe Kruse " and with a serial number.
A label KK in a star is fixed around the neck.
The success generates the imitation and a numerous competitors. Käthe KRUSE gets through them by her inimitable quality or by trials which she always wins.
Doubtless remembering children of Luca Della ROBBIA, she wants to create a soft doll; being 33 cm, the supple skeleton coated with cotton, the body covered with Jersey, she will be also beautiful naked as will dress. She sets in the arms of the girl " natural poses " of real baby. She aims at developing the innate maternal instinct at the girls. Another baby, conscript Bambino, of 25 cms, a little older, will be delivered in a convertible box in cradle, in 1923.
The same year, during a birth, the obstetrician launches a joke to Käthe KRUSE: "Why would not you make one "real baby"? Spicy Challenge: the same year appears the first newborn doll little baby(baby doll).
Very realistic, it is 53 cms ., weighs the weight of a real baby, exists with the open or closed eyes, possesses an anus and a navel and its languor allow its all the made languid poses of it mode. The same year, the Käthe KRUSE workshops propose the furniture and clothes for dolls. The manufacturing of the models of shop window are developed and they look like very often the young generation (adults already) of the family KRUSE.
In 1929, appears " the German child " ( Das deutsche Kind) inspired by the grandson of Käthe KRUSE (the son of her son Friedebald ), 4-year-old. He seems to be the first one to possess a wig " to comb ", exists in two sizes: 35 cms and 53 cms, and in diverse models
But the crisis arrives and the expensive dolls are less well sold. Käthe KRUSE adapts herself and produces a cheaper series, in the always flexible joints, but smaller (25 cms) and dressed more simply...
For specialized stores, she creates models of child (2 years 1/2).
Always on the lookout for the current events, after the small " fels grau " soldiers, she is going to make "Hitler Hungen", small and average sizes. I saw them only to the Museum of Donauwörth, while Sotheby and Christie often propose in London and in New York of "Balilla" ( Fascist Youth) of Lenci.
Incountable dolls, always hand-made, leave Bad Kösen worldwide. But the consequences of the Second World War also affected this litte town.
Bombarded, the workshops were reconstructed. However, two sons of Käthe KRUSE, Max and Michaël, established new studios to Donauwörth in 1947 and 1949. Since then, everything grouped together there and gets bigger there. Today, the firm is so important for it as the city is called Donauwörth-Käthe Kruse. In 1956, this old lady leaves Donauwörth for Murnau where she died in 1968.
Her descendants continue the production of dolls such as she had created them, with always a big success.
The catalog announces that to be delivered to Christmas, the commands have to reach before September 15th.
(The sector model was sold in 1958. )
The slogan is always
" The doll Käthe KRUSE: a child for your child "
There is a Käthe KRUSE club for collectors and amateurs.
The story of Käthe KRUSE took us well away from the Museum of her dolls.
This one, delighting, is accommodated old convent of the Capuchins. The small rooms (cells of the monks) which follow one another suit very well in the represented scenes. 130 dolls of 1912 in our days, models, toy houses, military scenes. Every showcase of this Museum has a theme: the scool, the haberdashery, the picnic, the bedroom etc. The furniture is always very net, wooden clear, and reduced to its simplest expression.
Nothing has to distract the attention from the doll which remains the center of interest. Older (1911-1913) are presented in niches, feets in the sand, the pebbles or the dead leaves... Clearly, because it is in a garden, clear and simple, without reconstruction of time, this Museum while being modern and functional is very pleasant. A temporary exhibition of fashion dolls and the movie: " Story of the family, of dolls Käthe KRUSE and their detailed manufacturing ", ends the route.
her first creations, Käthe KRUSE want to stress the simple and
realistic character of her dolls by the choice of clothes: peasant
blouses or squared shirts, shorts for the little boys. Frowned or
wrinkled dresses, in flowerets, in stripes olr with pea for
girls. Natural fabrics: cotton or wool only.
Pupils, boys or girls, the dolls of Käthe KRUSE are always dressed as small German. Some Bavarian details: silvery buttons, Tyrolean stripes, underline their character. But never of folklore, or error of taste.
By concern of realism, all the soldiers were dressed with an extreme precision. As for the newborn child, he was naturally presented in christening robe and endowed with a baby cloth.
In the store of the Museum, only books sare selled, albums, posters, catalogs and postcards. A very beautiful toy store, situated in the main street of the village, has the deposit of all the productions of workshops Käthe KRUSE. Dolls are presented since the beginning in attractive cardboard boxes, printed by light red and white drawings. According to the models, size and clothes, the prizes vary 200 DM in 1.200 DM. Sixteen models of miniatures of 6 cms, presented in the same red and white boxes, are very affordable. For the old dolls, it is necessary to count a minimum of 4.000 DM, but they are so rare !
What is the place of the Käthe KRUSE dolls in the world of dolls? In Museums and in salerooms of the whole world, they are estimated and looked for. Their natural and smiling character always pleases and dolls Käthe KRUSE of today pleases a lot.
In Germany, as in the other European or Americans countries , we find it only in the best toy shops, often exclusively and in small number. Every copy is numbered and "only ", if it is "hand-made". Every doll has so much charm that it explains the international success of all the series.
Colette M E R L E N
( 23 February 1997 )
E T U R N
Any reproduction rights (text and photos)
even partial rigorously reserved ©
Registration of copyright B.N.F.
1998 official list 4-D4 PER-88
BACH Jean Collecting German Dolls Lyle Stuart Inc. New Jersey 1983 p. 126-170-178-179
CIESLIK J. et M. Dolls European Dolls 1800-1930 Ed/. Christees, Collection Guide London 1979 p.78-81
German dolls encyclopedia (1800-1930) Hobby House Press Inc. Cumberland Maryland 1895 p. 169-170-171
RICHTER Lydia Puppen Album n° 3 :Käthe KRUSE Puppen Ed. Lanterna Magica Munich 1982 (*)
Documents of the Museum Käthe KRUSE to Donauwörth. August, 1996.
There is unfortunately no work in French on dolls Käthe KRUSE.
That of Lydia RICHTER in German is remarkable.
Let us add to Lady'sMERLEN list :
NARRAT Sylvie - A pioneer: Käthe KRUSE, the mother of the contemporary doll. Article appeared in the number 20 to spring, 1992, of the Magazine of the Doll's house and artists' doll. We find IN FRENCH, a rather complete biography and a description of the main models of dolls there.
"Poupées Tendresse "9, Rue Poussin 75016 Paris 01.45.20.90.60
KRUSE Käthe- Ich und meine Puppen Herderbücherei 1982