Brandt (1893-1983) was born in Chemnitz as Marianne Liebe. She studied painting and sculpture at the Weimar Fine Arts School from 1911 until 1918.
In 1919 Marianne married Erik Brandt, a Norwegian painter, in Christiana. The Brandts lived in Norway and the South of France, before joining the Weimar Bauhaus in 1923. There she became a student of Hungarian modernist theorist and designer László Moholy-Nagy in the metal workshop. Erik Brandt returned alone to Norway; the couple eventually divorced in 1935.
The years 1924-1929 saw Marianne Brandt produce numerous designs in quick succession, which are numbered among the icons of Bauhaus design, such as her 1924 teapot and sieve.
From 1926 Brandt was deputy head of the metalworking workshop. She was responsible for most important Bauhaus contracts for collaborations with industry. These contracts for the production of lights and other metal workshop designs were a rare example of one of the workshops helping to fund the school.
For the lighting firm of Körting & Mathiesen (Kandem), she designed nuermous lamps which were successfully produced, including, notably, the 1924 hanging ceiling lamp and the 1928 “Kandem” table lamp she designed in collaboration with Hin Bredendieck.
Brandt’s designs for metal ashtrays, tea and coffee services, lamps and other household objects are now recognized as among the best of both Weimar and Dessau Bauhaus. Further, they were among the few Bauhaus designs to be mass-produced during the interwar period, and several of them are currently available as reproductions.
In 1929 Marianne Brandt had a brief stint working in Walter Gropius’ Berlin architecture practice. There she mainly designed furniture for mass production and modular furniture while also working on the interior design of housing in Karlsruhe-Dammerstock.
In 1949 Marianne Brandt was invited to teach at the Fine Arts School in Dresden, GDR, and from 1951 to 1954 she taught in East Berlin at the Applied Arts Institute.
Brandt also produced a body of photomontage work, focusing on the complex situation of women in the interwar period, a time when they enjoyed new freedoms in work, fashion and sexuality, yet frequently experienced traditional prejudices.
Marianne Brandt died in Kirchberg, Saxony at the age of 89. While the Bauhaus was generally reviled as “decadent” in East Germany, by the end of her life Brandt had a loyal group of students from her many years as a teacher of design.
She is also remembered as a pioneering photographer, creating experimental still-life compositions, but it is her series of self portraits which are particularly striking. These often represent her as a strong and independent New Woman of the Bauhaus.