Rosenthal ceramics : themes in company and product identity reconfiguration

Carmel-Arthur, Judith (2007) Rosenthal ceramics : themes in company and product identity reconfiguration. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis investigates Rosenthal's high-design identity and image construction primarily, although not exclusively, through the post-World War II period and into the era of the post- modern. Empirical study of Rosenthal carried out by Bernd Fritz (1984, and 1989) situates Rosenthal's commitment to high design to 1950. The present thesis isolates and discusses important threads of continuity between Rosenthal's pre- and post- World War II identity construction strategies, looking at how these asserted continuity with ceramics, familial and national pasts. As Lampugnani has observed, in many features of Germany's sweep towards renewal after World War II, tradition and continuity competed with modernism for pre-eminence in the reconstruction of the nation.' This thesis academically embeds and investigates Rosenthal within this cultural interpretation. It argues that the predominant and richest reconstruction strategy enlisted was modernity, and that Rosenthal reconstructed itself after 1945 via a range of discernable strategies informed by styles and ideologies of the modern. In this way, Rosenthal constitutes a significant case study in postwar reconstruction because it represents the second generation of industrial enterprises within Germany to look towards typologies of modernity for product and identity solutions. After critically introducing its subject in Chapter One, Chapter Two interrogates existing literature covering Rosenthal. Chapter Three states the inter-disciplinary research methodology of the thesis, commenting upon interpretive paradigms and significant influences that informed the study. From Chapter Four onwards, the thesis adopts a thematic investigation, each chapter concentrating upon an individual focal examination. Chapter Four embeds Rosenthal within the comparatively newer academic perspectives of narrative analysis; looking for the first time at the firm's development and manipulation of mythbiographical text. Chapter Five enlists hitherto unrecognised documentary evidence to offer a new contextualisation of Rosenthal's aryanisation, interpreting its product, family and manufacturing identity under the management of the infamous Deutsche Arbetisfront (or DAF, the Nazi-run, German Labour Front) during the battle to create 'model' industrial enterprises throughout Germany by 1939. Chapter Six looks at discourses of aesthetic modernity, and at an Americanisation of Rosenthal's design during the 1950s, also acknowledging the importance of Scandinavian design in the post-war German design climate. Chapter Seven addresses Rosenthal's uneasy relationships with Germany's Gute Form movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and identifies the company's prominent participation in the German cultural repatriation of a Bauhaus legacy. Chapter Eight examines Rosenthal's association with ideologies and cultural statuses of fine art, while Chapter Nine proposes both the ideologies and realities of exhibition and display served significant, strategic roles in Rosenthal's post-war identity mantle. Chapter Ten concludes the thesis by examining and interpreting Rosenthal's aspirational relationship with institutional statuses of the museum, presenting a case study in the firm's relationship with the Victoria & Albert Museum.

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