Walter Bosse Biography and Timeline of His Life

Walter Bosse with 2 black cats
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Walter Bosse was born on the 13th of November 1904 in Vienna to Luise and Julius Bosse. His parents were both artists, with his father working as portrait painter at the imperial court. It was not long before Bosse was exercising his artistic talent as well. He studied at the Wiener Kunstgewerbeschule and Münchner Kunstgewerbeschule from 1918–1923 and soon had his own shop in Kufstein.

Walter Bosse original shop

Many began discovering Bosse’s work and a number of his pieces were shown at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in 1925. He then started designing for Augarten Porcelain Works, as well as Goldscheider, and Metzler and Ortloff. In 1931, to meet increasing demand (especially in America), Bosse opened up a bigger shop in Kufstein, but by 1933 they started to feel the effects of the economic depression. By 1937, the end of the Kufstein works finally came.

Walter Bosse Original Shop Window

In 1938, now divorced, Bosse moved back to Vienna where he founded Bosse-Keramik, which again expanded under the new name “Terra” to include glass, toys, textiles, and a variety of craft items for the gift market. In the late 1940s, Bosse began experimenting with brass by giving his ceramic figures a metal coating to protect them from breakage. As the 1950s came, Bosse found a great love for brass and began his “Black Golden” line. Soon, he devoted all of his efforts to brass. The figures became popular gifts given to politicians and royalty worldwide.

Walter Bosse Original Catalog Page

Even though Bosse sees much success with his brass figures, it is still a difficult time for him economically. In 1953, partly fleeing from financial troubles, he moves to Iserlohn where he sets up a new shop and continues production. This year also sees Bosse collaborating with Karlsruhe State Majolika Works on a number pottery of animal figures. In 1958 he designed for Achatit Schirmer.

Walter Bosse Achatit Original Catalog Page

A number of Bosse’s designs began to gain widespread popularity, particularly with his hedgehog ashtrays and hand shaped bowls. But with that success came many copiers. Forgeries began popping up worldwide, especially in England where they even tried to patent some of his designs! Specifically, his hedgehog ashtrays were being copied in the millions worldwide. Walter Bosse suffered huge losses so to protect his designs he began grueling court battles which would last the rest of his life and deplete most of his money. Because of these cases, he is considered the founder of modern copyright law for designer goods.

Walter Bosse Pen Holder Original Catalog Page

At the same time, Bosse turned his efforts to small-sized everyday items such as letter openers, keyrings and corkscrews and pencil holders. This new development of products came at the expense of some of the artistic quality he was know for in his earlier works. Thanks to these products though, he is still known worldwide today, whether directly through the current use of his products today or through the influence they had on the design world.

The last years of Bosse’s life saw him devoting more and more time and money in his court cases and on December 17, 1979, Bosse died with no money to his name in Iserlohn. Walter Bosse’s oeuvre consists of about 8,000 models and designs, of which about 3,000 are ceramics.

Walter Bosse’s Gravestone

Timeline

1904 Walter Bosse born (November 1904)
1919–1922 Bosse studies at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts (Wiener Kunstgewerbeschule) under Franz Cizek (1919/20) and Michael Powolny (1921/22), “modeling and throwing ceramics”
1919–1937 Bosse starts his own ceramic workshop in Kufstein
1921 Bosse is self-employed as a ceramist in the “Wiener Werkstätte” under Josef Hoffmann
1921–1922 Bosse studies at the School of Arts and Crafts in Münich (Münchner Kunstgewerbeschule) under Richard Riemerschmidt (1921) and Adelbert Niemeyer
1924 Bosse designs for Augarten Porcelain Works in Vienna
1924–1932 Bosse is a member of the Austrian Workfactory
1925 Bosse takes part in the exhibition of Arts and Crafts in Paris (Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes)
1926–1930 Bosse has figurines published in the journal “Die Schaulade”
1926–1936 Bosse designs for Friedrich Goldscheider Manufactory, Wien
1926–1939 Bosse participates in the Leipzig Fair (Leipziger Messe)
1926–1939 Bosse is employed by the Fischer company (Porzellanfabrik Arno Fischer) in Ilmenau
1927 Austrian Arts and Crafts in Essen, and exhibition of the German Ceramic Society in Berlin
1927–1938 Bosse designs for Metzler & Ortloff, Ilmenau
1928–1930 Bosse takes part in the Künstlerhaus Weihnachtsschau
1928–1939 Bosse is a member of the Bavarian organization of Arts and Crafts (Bayerischer Kunstgewerbe Verein) in Münich
1931 Bosse marries his college sweetheart, Beatrix Bolla
1938 Bosse files for divorce, founds Bosse-Keramik in Vienna
1940–1961 Bosse designs for Goebel in Oeslau
1947–1953 Bosse founds “Terra” company
1949 Bosse starts working in brass, begins “Black-Golden Line”
1950–1972 Bosse designs for the state Majolika-Manufactory in Karlsruhe
1958–1961 Bosse designs for Achatit Schirmer, in Köln
1979 Bosse dies in Iserlohn (December 1979)

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