There are many men and women in the last 150 years that have provided a great amount of influence on the art of dollmaking. Artist dolls of the last century take many forms and are made of almost every kind of material. A hаnd-сrаftеd dоll iѕ оnе оf a kind, аn іndіvіduаl whісh саrrіеѕ thе ѕрirit оf thе mаkеr іn іtѕ ѕtitсhеѕ аnd аbѕоrbѕ thе ѕрirit оf thе person whо lоvеѕ іt. It was a challenge to narrow down 10 of our most influential dollmakers of the last 100 years, but we did it.
This is our list of the top 10 dollmakers you need to know about. Some are ones you will be familiar with and some you will not. We also gave you our favorite examples of their dolls from the Dolls Lane. And so, for the love of dolls, enjoy our Top 10 Doll Artists That You Need to Know About.
French artist Albert Marque, known for his sculptures of young children in the early 20th century, created the original design for a doll in 1915. Sold exclusively in the shop of Paris couturier Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix, each doll was dressed in an exclusive individual costume, providing work for the shop employees during WWI. Of the original 100 dolls, an estimated 25 dolls exist today. The A. Marque doll, considered the “holy grail” of antique bisque dolls, sells for as much as $300,000.
Elena Scavini, known as Madame Lenci, started experimenting with felt for dolls in 1919. Adopting the motto “Play is our constant work,” the dolls were expensive in their day due to the elaborate felt and organdy costumes made with outstanding precision. Most notable, among Lenci’s 83 years of history, was the period between the two World Wars. Adults, as well as children, were drawn to the charming children, celebrity portraits and long legged boudoir dolls in their colorful costumes. Because so many of the dolls found homes with adults, the dolls were handled with care and as a result, many museum-quality examples of Lenci dolls from the 1920’s and ’30s can be found today.
Izannah Frankford Walker lived in the nineteenth century, operating a cottage industry making pressed cloth dolls in a time when most women couldn’t own property or vote. She first patented her dollmaking process in 1873, but she may have been making dolls as early as 1840. Her dolls have the look of primitive folk portraits from the mid-1800s.
Kathe Kruse made her first doll from a rolled towel with a potato for a head. Improving on the dolls, she eventually settled on molded cloth made especially to be unbreakable, washable, warm and cuddly. A 1910 Berlin exhibit of her dolls brought two big orders from the United States. As Kruse perfected her production methods, she began to model the dolls after her own children. Their naturalness (in comparison with the commercial variety) soon made her famous. Although she made some doll house dolls, as well as life-like store mannequins, the collectors of today prefer the early Kathe Kruse play dolls.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the goal of doll artist Martha Chase was to make a doll that was light, soft and easy to play with, unlike the European bisque dolls that filled the shelves of American toy stores. Her play dolls, and later hospital babies were oil painted, varnished, surface washable and unbreakable. She also designed a rare line of portraits.
Marion Kaulitz presented her character dolls at a 1908 doll art exhibition in Munich, Germany. With hand-painted heads depicting real children, the dolls created a sensation. Now known as Munich Art Dolls, these realistic child dolls are believed to have inspired the German art character reform movement, greatly influencing the bisque character dolls of companies such as Kammer & Rheinhardt.
Working for nearly 70 years, Bernard Lipfert sculpted and created dolls for most of the prominent doll and toy manufacturers in America including such successful dolls as Patsy, Shirley Temple, the Dionne Quints, DyDee, Toni, Miss Revlon and many others. He was born in the toy making Thuringian region of Germany, immigrating to the United States in 1912. Although his first love was the Patsy doll, the most successful was Shirley Temple, selling over six million dolls at the time. Every little girl wanted a Shirley Temple doll!
American doll artist Dorothy Heizer’s dolls were portraits of historical figures, costumed with exquisite detail. She used a wire skeleton padded with cotton batting, then covered with a silk crepe skin. The needle sculpted faces have watercolor painted details. Working from the 1920’s into the 1950’s, each (mostly) one-of-a-kind doll was entirely made by the artist. For her Princess Elizabeth wedding portrait doll, the artist painstakingly hand stitched 44,000 beads, copying the design of the embroidered and beaded dress and train from photos of the original.
Doll artists generally make delicate dolls suitable for exhibition or adult enjoyment. Dewees Cochran, using a latex material, created a doll that could be played with. Her series of “Look-a-Like” dolls were special order portraits of her client’s children. A Life magazine cover story spread their popularity. Using one of six different faces, each doll was hand painted, wigged and costumed to represent the individual child. She is also known for her “Grow Up” dolls, and the American Children series for Effanbee.
R. John Wright
The R. John Wright Company was founded in 1976, and all of the dolls are handmade in Bennington, Vermont with original sculpts made by R. John and Susan Wright. The challenge of bridging the gap between 19th century children’s literature and putting a doll in the hands of a new sparkly eyed collector is something the Wrights have mastered. They bring back that magical feel for the classic American literature and beloved characters in the stories, making them as irresistible today as they were when they first graced the pages of classic novels. Their dolls are so true to form that collectors often consider their R. John Wright characters as the definitive version in doll form.
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