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 his departure in 1996. After his wife passed away from cancer, Granget spent his remaining years in a retirement home until his death in 2010 at the age of 78.
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 finches on a branch, issued in 1962, is only about 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. It dates from 1960 and was available in three colorways: pink, yellow, or white.
This bird with outstretched wings appears to be the Eurasian Blue Jay. Circa 1958, it measures approximately 5″ x 8″.
A cockatiel examines a tropical flower in this 1963 piece. It 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 Barn Swallow alighting on a branch. Dating from 1958, it is about 10″ high and 8.25″ wide.
This pair of Barn Swallows at rest, from 1963, 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 include the title, edition size and sculpture number, but not the issue year. This particular edition (Safe at Home) was introduced in 1969.
A Family Affair was part of the Birds of Forest, Field, and Stream series in 1969. It is 6.25” high, 9″ wide, and was a limited edition of 200.
This pheasant group is titled Take Cover and was an edition of 125. It was introduced in 1969 and retailed for $5250 in 1972. 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 in 1973, it is 15” high and was first issued in 1969.
An even smaller 1969 edition and with a larger 1973 price tag ($9000) was the Great Blue Herons. This elaborate study is 20.5″ high and almost 20″ wide as well, because of the wingspan. Originally planned as an edition of 200, the studio stopped producing it after only 150 had been made.
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 in 1976 and is 15” high.
A male Hairy Woodpecker and two Red Breasted Nuthatches share the same tree limb as Friendly Enemies. An edition of 175 from 1969 that is 10.75” high and 10” wide. Some sources gave the sculpture’s official name as Friendly Enemies, while others cite it as Hairy Woodpecker with Redbreasted Nuthatches.
A pair of Canada Geese in the final stages of Heading South for the winter. This is 16.5” high, 19.5” wide, and was an edition of 150 from 1969.
My final bisque Hutschenreuther example is Off Season, a trio of adorable Bobwhite Quail from 1969. The group measures 7” high and 13” wide not including the wood base, and was an edition of 125.
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 Language of Nature was an edition of 100 in 1980, 13” high x 27” wide x 12” deep on its wood base. ($7500 at introduction)
First Moments shows a female Whistling Swan and her chick. An edition of 200, 8” high x 12” wide on base. ($4500 at introduction)
A pair of Spotted Sandpipers are On the Run along a 5” high x 9.75” wide study, as an edition of 250. ($1750 at introduction)
The American Avocet takes his First Steps as an edition of 250. He is 9” high and 6” wide. ($2150 at introduction)
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 at introduction)
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 at introduction)
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 [at left in photo] is 13″ high, 7″ long, and 4.5″ wide. The male [at right] is 11″ high. The edition size was only 150 of each sculpture.
This marvelous and colorful study of California Quail is titled On Guard, an edition of 150 from 1981. The mail bird keeps a sharp lookout as he protects his family.
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 by Granget: five ducks and a goose. It should be noted that not all of the pieces in the series were designed by Granget; for example, the male Wood Duck was a Granget piece but the female Wood Duck was not. The photos below represent only the Granget birds.
The Goldeneye is 4” high and 6.75” long.
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.
Mallard, 4” high x 7.5”long. There were two other mallards in the ‘Lakelands’ series that were not by Granget.
The Canada Goose is 6” high and 11” long. This example is missing its base.
All six owls in the 1983 Wings of the Night series were by Granget. Like the Wetlands series, these were editions of 1000 per design.
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.
The Snowy Owl is a bit bigger at 9” tall.
The Great Horned Owl is the largest in the series just under 10” in height. He is 5” x 6” at the widest points. This is a piece that sold for $700 when new.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Pygmy Owl at only 5.9″ tall.
A Barn Owl prepares to take flight for a night’s hunting. This is slightly more than 8″ high.
And finally, the Long Eared Owl at 9″ high.
Granget did design some pieces for Hutschenreuther during his second stint there (1984-1996) but they are not as elaborate/detailed as his earlier ones. As with many other porcelain studios, the overall market for art porcelain (especially the higher priced ones) was in serious decline by the early 1990s. Goebel’s “cash cow” was, of course, their Hummel line rather than the Granget items which were a more limited — and less profitable, as time went on — niche market.
The next post will focus on his other design genres for Hutschenreuther and Goebel, as well as items designed for Wallace, Calhoun, and Anri.