Lilly Reich (1885 – 1947) was a German interior designer and furniture and exhibition designer. Reich was born into a wealthy family of factory-owners.
She learned embroidery and studied at the Wiener Werkstätte in Vienna under Josef Hoffmann in 1908. In 1910 she became a pupil of Else Oppler-Legband (b. 1875) at the Hochschule für Dekorationkunst in Berlin. The skills of Oppler-Legband in fashion, needlework, window design, design of scenery and interior design provided Reich with media foundations that would later become part of her professional repertoire.
One of her earliest designs was a rustic metal milk pitcher (c1908). From 1908, Reich worked at the Wiener Werkstätte under Josef Hoffmann. In 1911, she returned to Berlin, where she associated with Anna and Hermann Muthesius and collaborated with Else Oppler-Legband. In 1912 she became a member of Deutscher Werkbund. In 1920 she became the first woman member of its board of directors.
In 1920 she joined the Freie Gruppe für Farbkunst des DWB. She worked for the Atelier für Innenraumgestaltung, Dekorationskunst und Mode (Studio for the Interior Design, Decoration and Fashion) in Berlin until 1924.
Between 1924 and 1926 she worked at the Atelier für Ausstellunggestaltung und Mode (Studio for exhibition design and fashion) in Frankfurt.
Her professional relationship with Mies van der Rohe began with the 1927 ‘Weissenhof-Siedlung’ exhibition. They selected the exhibitors and designed the stands. The glass section had floors in black and white linoleum and walls of etched opaque glass. The chairs were covered in white chamois and black cowhide and the bench table in rosewood.
At the 1927 ‘Mode der Dame’ she showed her expertise with textiles, and she and Mies designed its silk exhibit, at which Mies displayed his tubular steel furniture. The silk and velvet fabrics were hung from chromium-plated steel frames, forming black, orange and red velvet screens that contrasted with gold, silver, lemon and black silk ones.
In the German section at the 1929 Barcelona exhibition, she was in charge of all the industrial exhibits and designed the stands. When Mies became head of the Bauhaus in Dessau in 1930, she was already a respected interior designer.
Joining the Bauhaus in 1932, she taught in the construction and weaving workshops, subsequently becoming head of the weaving and the interior design workshops. Mies took sole credit for their 1930 chaise-couch; the piece may have been from Reich’s hand alone. A copy was purchased in 1930 for Philip Johnson for his house in New York. The purchase included Reich’s 1930 wood and steel bookcases and 1930 writing table. When the chaise-couch was shown initially at the 1931 Berlin ‘Deutsche Bauausstelling,’ she produced most of the work and showed her own model house along with Mies’s.
In 1932, Reich moved with the Bauhaus to Berlin-Steglitz but was dismissed by a city official. She designed interiors and some of the furniture for 1936 of Dr Facius in Berlin-Dahlem.
In 1938 she designed children’s furniture for the Wolf residence in Guben.
1939 furniture for the Crous residence in Berlin-Südende, and 1939 interiors for Dr Schäppi apartment in Berlin. In 1939 she travelled to Chicago to join Mies who had settled there in 1937. However, she returned to Berlin to handle a long-running suit against the moulding firm Mauser over her and Mies’s furniture designs.
During World War 2 she designed the 1938 – 1942 furniture and interior for Jürgen Reich’s quarters in her house. In 1943, her studio in Genthiner Strasse was destroyed by bombs. She took up temporary residence near Zittau. She was drafted into the Organisation Todt, a forced labour civil engineering body.
From 1945, she worked at the Atelier für Architektur, Design, Textilien und Mode (Studio for Architecture, Design, Textiles and fashion) in Berlin.
Between 1945 – 46 she taught interior design and elementary building construction at the Hochschule für Bilende Künste in Berlin.
She designed interiors at the 1932 ‘The International Style: Architecture since 1922′ exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art. The German ‘Textlindustrie’ stand at the 1937 Paris ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne. Mies designed the graphics and furniture.’
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Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.
Sherin, A. (2006, October 20). Reich, Lilly. Grove Art Online. Retrieved 8 Feb. 2021, from https://www-oxfordartonline-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7002021963.