Although most of my Lost Porcelain Studios series focuses on actual studio operations, there were a few porcelain artists who never had their own independent studio but instead spent their career as a marquee designer for one or more major porcelain companies. Gunther Granget was one of those.
Gunther Granget was born in 1932 in Karlsruhe, a city in southwestern Germany. Because his father was a surveyor, young Gunther often accompanied him on treks in the Black Forest. In a 1970s newspaper interview he recalled that on those excursions “I would amuse myself by watching small animals and birds, and soon I began to sketch whatever I saw.” The young man developed a lifelong habit of close observation of wildlife, especially noting how wings, legs, and other body elements behaved during movement and flight and then translating those attributes to his drawings and models.
In 1956, at the age of 24, Granget joined the Lorenz Hutschenreuther porcelain manufactory in Selb (Bavaria) as an apprentice and rose through the ranks to become one of their premier sculptors. For his first fifteen years there, he was an in-house artist but during the 1970s he took a sabbatical to study nature in the field and develop new designs in his home studio. This studio was for design purposes only; it did not produce items for commercial distribution.
Some sources claim that Granget took his sabbatical beginning in 1971 which was two years after the Lorenz Hutschenreuther factory merged with the C.M. Hutschenreuther operation. Were there some management changes that prompted Granget to take a break and re-evaluate his career path?
Whatever the reason, Granget officially cut ties with Hutschenreuther in 1977 and moved to Goebel. (However, the Goebel company dates from its founding in 1871 by Franz Goebel whose wife Aline Hutschenreuther was the neice of C.M. Hutschenreuther … so in a way it was still “all in the family!”) From 1977 through 1983 Granget’s designs were marketed under the Goebel branding. During this time he retained the small studio that he had created at the beginning of that decade. A May 1982 article in NewsOK said “Only 20 shops in the United States carry Granget’s line which is priced from $150 to $8,000” and also that “Granget’s pieces are made in a studio rather than a factory where he maintains a staff of 10 workers” and “all told, he says he has done 300 subjects.”
Then after six years of “Goebel Granget” he returned to Hutschenreuther in 1984 as head of their art department and remained there until 1996. I have been unable to find anything regarding Granget’s history after leaving Hutschenreuther for the second time in 1996 until his death in 2010 at age 78. Perhaps someone familiar with his later years can round out the story; there is a direct-contact form on the About the Chatsworth Lady page.
This is the first of two posts about Granget and will focus only on his bird studies. The second post will look at his animals, fish, and human figures. One notable aspect of Granget’s career is that his contracts with Hutschenreuther and Goebel were NOT exclusive; he could, and did, design items for other manufacturers as well. This is why we see items such as decorative plates, carved wood pieces, figurines cast in pewter and bronze, etc., bearing the Granget name. All of those were produced in the 1970s and 1980s during the ‘collectibles heyday’ and a selection of them will be shown in the second post.
Granget for Hutschenreuther (1956-1976)
The Hutschenreuther birds can be divided into two categories: glazed and matte, with the glazed items being the earlier (mid 1950s through late 1960s.) There are a few “overlap” pieces from 1970 during the transition from his items being glazed to being matte.
This is an example of the marks on a typical glazed Granget piece for Hutschenreuther.
This adorable trio of colorful birds on a branch is only 6” high.
The high glaze really brings out the rich deep colors of the Hutschenreuther pieces. This redstart is 7” high and 5.75” wide.
A cockatoo perched above a tropical flower is about 12” high.
This bird with outstretched wings appears to be a type of jay and is 9” high.
Another tropical/jungle bird; this one is 6” high and 12.5” wide.
Granget’s depiction of the brilliant Scarlet Tanager is 7” high and 5” wide.
Two views of a single Granget swallow alighting on a branch. Its height is not known.
This pair of swallows at rest is about 6” high and 5” wide.
Two examples of the Emperor Penguin and Chick, which is quite large at 18” high. This is supposedly a 1970 piece which means it is from the glazed/matte transition period.
The backstamps on the bisque (matte/non-glazed) Granget Hutschenreuther pieces from the 1970s include the title, edition size, and sculpture number … but not the issue year.
A Family Affair, an edition of 500, was part of the Birds of Forest, Field, and Stream series. It is 6.25” high.
This pheasant group is titled Take Cover, an edition of 250. It sold for $5250 during its 1972 introduction year. This wide piece is 14” high and 27” long.
A pintail duck family group is Safe at Home. An edition of 350 selling for $3500 when introduced in 1973, it is 15” high.
An even smaller edition and with a larger 1973 price tag ($9000) was the Great Blue Herons edition of 200.
Packing up The Dance, Crown Crested Cranes for shipment must have been nightmare-inducing! Only 25 of these 1973 introductions were made. It stands an impressive 27” high and almost 20” wide.
The colorful male Wood Duck certainly has the right to be a Proud Parent of his brood! This was an edition of 250 and is 15” high.
A male Hairy Woodpecker and two Nuthatches (I leave it to the ornithologists to tell me whether they are the White Breasted or Red Breasted!) share the same tree limb as Friendly Enemies. An edition of 600 that is 10.75” high and 10” wide.
This pair of Canada Geese is in the final stages of Heading South for the winter. This is 16.5” high, 19.5” wide, and was an edition of 300.
My final bisque Hutschenreuther example is Off Season, a trio of adorable Bobwhite Quail. The group measures 7” high and 13” wide not including the wood base, and was an edition of 400.
Granget for Goebel (1979 to 1984)
Although Granget officially joined Goebel in 1977, his retail debut for that brand didn’t occur until two years later with their introduction of his Wings of the Wetlands series. Brielle Galleries devoted a four-page full-color-glossy spread in their Spring 1980 catalog to the event, with the lead-off “The ‘Bird’ Is Back!”
The official issue date for this series was 1979. The retail price upon introduction is shown in parentheses. The Language of Nature was an edition of 100, 13” high x 27” wide x 12” deep on its wood base. ($7500)
First Moments shows a female Whistling Swan and her chick. An edition of 200, 8” high x 12” wide on base. ($4500)
A pair of Spotted Sandpipers are On the Run along a 5” high x 9.75” wide study, as an edition of 250. ($1750)
The American Avocet takes his First Steps as an edition of 250. He is 9” high and 6” wide. ($2150)
A Green Heron is clearly On the Prowl; this sculpture was researched by Granget in the Mississippi River’s delta region. The edition of 250 is 9” high x 8” wide on its base. ($1850)
Two baby Horned Grebes enjoy a Spring Outing on their mother’s back. This was an edition of 250 and measures 6” high and 8”wide. ($2400)
Silver Wings is the title of this amazing life-size sculpture of three Common Terns in flight. It is 15.75” high, 23” wide, and 11.5” deep on its base. The edition of 300 was introduced at $4850.
This press photo shows Granget with the sculpture.
The backstamp format Goebel used for the Granget pieces deliberately left an empty space for the artist to autograph the piece if the occasion arose. It’s likely that he signed the On the Prowl piece at a retail gallery event, while the On Guard was simply sold from a dealer’s normal stock on an ordinary day.
Celebration of Spring from 1981 was sold as a pair (male and female) of Whooping Cranes. It was not part of the Wings of the Wetlands series. The female [upper photo] is 13″ high, 7″ long, and 4.5″ wide. The male [lower photo] is 11″ high. Retail pricing of the pair is unknown.
Unfortunately this is the only photo I could find of On Guard, an edition of 150 from 1982. Sadly it is mising two things: the original accompanying wood base, and the male quail that was perched on the upper section of the log. It is 8.25” high without the male bird attached, and almost 11” long. Perhaps one day a complete example will surface!
Goebel joined the typical 1980s bandwagon of porcelain studios establishing a ‘Collector’s Club’ and offering a special piece to members only. One such piece was a 5.25” high Screech Owl by Granget, titled On the Alert. Unfortunately I do not know the issue/offer year of this promotional piece.
In 1982 and 1984 Goebel introduced two more “Wings of…” series by Granget. These were smaller, simpler pieces than the 1979 ‘Wetlands’ studies and also had larger edition sizes (1000 each.) Their retail prices ranged from $400 to $700 and so were much more affordable than the more elaborate pieces.
The 1982 series was called Wings of the Lakelands and portrayed six birds: five ducks and a goose.
The Goldeneye is 4” high and 6.75” long. It is missing the original accompanying wood base.
Pintail Duck, 5” high x 9.5”long.
Wood Duck, 4” high x 7.5″ long.
Green Winged Teal, 3.5” high x 7” long. Although still one still has the COA that came with it, it is missing its oval wood base.
Mallard, 4” high x 7.5”long.
The Canada Goose is 6” high and 11” long; it is missing its original base.
I have been able to discover three designs in the 1984 Wings of the Night series; of course they are all owls. It would have made sense to have included other owls (perhaps a Tawny, Screech, and Barn Owl?) to make this a series of six like the previous one. If anyone knows of additional pieces in this series, I would love to add them here. There is a direct contact form on the About The Chatsworth Lady page.
Notice that the stamps on these do not include Granget’s name by default; possibly because of the smaller ‘footprint.’ A space was still left blank for autograph possibilities, though.
The Boreal Owl is 7” tall. This one is missing its original accompanying wood base.
The Snowy Owl is a bit bigger at 9” tall.
The Great Horned Owl is just under 10” in height. He is 5” x 6” at the widest points. This is a piece that sold for $700 when new.
For some reason I’ve been unable to identify any birds that Granget designed for Hutschenreuther during his second stint there (1984-1996.) Perhaps Granget chose to stop designing as of the mid 1980s and moved to a strictly executive position there instead. It would be interesting to find out more about this period in his career.
The next post will focus on his other design genres for Hutschenreuther and Goebel, as well as items designed for Wallace, Calhoun, and Anri.