KPM and the Chemical-Technical Research Institute


In the year 1878, the Chemical-Technical Research Institute, in the immediate vicinity of the Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin in the district of Charlottenburg, not far from the Tiergarten, was founded as an institute for teaching and research in the field of ceramic materials. Here the scientific research of renowned chemists such as Hermann Seger, Albert Heinecke and Hermann Marquardt laid the foundation for technological innovations in the production and decoration of porcelain.

They succeeded in producing a new porcelain mass that could be fired at lower temperatures, which formed the prerequisite for the development of entirely new techniques in decoration, colours and glazes. Spurred on by the World Fairs, where East Asian vessels with luminous glazes and the lavish ornamentation of oriental ceramics captured the attention of the visitor, the modelers and porcelain painters of the Berlin manufactory created new forms and decoration. Vessel shapes with smooth walls were created which offered space for elaborate decorative techniques, setting themselves apart from the exuberant sculptural design of the porcelain models in the neo-Rococo style. In their simple elegance, the new forms appeared timeless. Crystal, shrink, and dripped glazes formed the basis for ornamental decoration as backgrounds on vases and boxes, which, with gold relief and enamel colours as well as the pâte-sur-pâte technique, gave rise to unique works of art.

Influences of various stylistic periods and cultures, absorbed by historicism, merged with the new forms of Art Nouveau. René Lalique’s jewellery and the imaginative creations in gold, enamel and precious stones by Peter Carl Fabergé provided KPM’s porcelain painters with inspiration for their decorative designs on porcelain. Thus, grids of gold relief covered the surfaces of vases, vegetative flowing lines adorned the necks of vases, tendril-like leaves and stems rose up from the foot of the vase culminating in a blossom, sculpturally enhanced by drops of enamel. The consistently varying bright colours and glazes as well as the inexhaustible wealth of motifs from the animal and plant kingdoms ensured that each model form achieved different effects. Whilst the surfaces of some porcelain objects were structured and newly arranged, in other designs form and decoration merged into an inseparable entity.

In a time when industrial manufacturing methods were producing inexpensive porcelain with printed decoration en masse, KPM Berlin made unique pieces in the handcraft tradition. Precious, highly individually designed vases, boxes and decorative plates from the Berlin porcelain manufactory became sought-after collector’s objects. As this collection of extraordinarily beautiful porcelain artworks shows, they retain their unique creative richness beyond the time of their creation.

Claudia TetzlaffI learnt the craft of porcelain painting from 1982 in the Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin (at that time still run as an independent enterprise of the State of Berlin), and worked as a porcelain painter with a focus on rich floral decoration until 2006. In 2007 I was responsible for the manufactory archive of KPM and since 2008 have trained porcelain painters. I also enjoyed helping set up the permanent exhibition KPM-WELT and numerous special exhibitions with KPM porcelain, contributing to exhibition catalogues and drafting lectures on the history of porcelain production and decoration.