Otti Berger – Croatian Artist from the Bauhaus Textile Workshop

Otti Berger – Croatian Artist from the Bauhaus Textile Workshop

Otti Berger was born in Zmajevac, today part of Croatia, but at the time of her birth called Vörösmart, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Although she had Yugoslav citizenship because of the place of her birth, she is often included among Hungarian artists. Otti Berger spent the whole of her professional life living, being trained and working in Germany, and other European countries.She has remained relatively unknown to the discipline in Croatia.

After the Royal Academy for Art and Fine Crafts in Zagreb, she continued her education in 1927 at the Bauhaus school in Dessau. She attended the Vorkurs with László Moholy-Nagy and lectures by Klee and Kandinsky. After that she enrolled in the textile workshop of the Bauhaus in Dessau, and took her degree in 1930. After the departure of Gunta Stoelzl in 1931, Otti Berger ran the textile department of the Bauhaus. For a short time she was the deputy of Lilly Reich who took over the department in 1932

Lucia Moholy, Portrait Otti Berger, 1927-28
Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin

Lucia Moholy, Portrait Otti Berger, 1927-28
Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin

After she left the Bauhaus and its closure, Otti Berger opened her own textile studio in Berlin. She worked with great success with numerous textile firms in Germany, Holland and Switzerland that produced textiles after her inventive design approaches, with the "o.b." or "Otti Berger" label. She was the only designer from Bauhaus who at that time sought and managed to get the protection of a patent for her textiles. She obtained one patent in Germany, another in England, while a third that was applied for in Germany was not granted.

Because of her Jewish descent she had to shut her firm, because in 1936 she was forbidden to work. Although most of the teachers from Bauhaus, including her fiancé Ludwig Hilberseimer managed to get a visa and leave for the US, Otti Berger did not manage it. She lived for a number of short periods in London, but could not manage to find steady employment. In 1938 she returned to Zmajevac and lived with her family. After that, she was clearly unable to leave Yugoslavia. In April 1944, with her family, she was deported to Auschwitz, where she died.

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