Aloys Ferdinand Gangkofner was an outstanding glassmaker and glass designer of the post-war period in Germany. Raised in the famous glass region of the Bavarian forest, he early made contact with glass and was perfectly acquainted with the material. First as a designer of transparent glass, then a designer of lighting fixtures, and finally as a light designer, glass and light always remained Gangkofner’s central themes. To him the two were always inseparably connected.

Hot challenge – the future of old techniques

In the early 1950s Gangkofner began successfully working with free-blown glass in the traditional hot glass techniques as Wolfgang and Herthe von Wersin and his teacher Bruno Mauder had intensively done before him. These techniques were executed exclusively at the furnace—without being blown into negative molds—and required an extensive knowledge of materials on the part of the glassblower, great skill, and a good eye.

It was on the island of Murano that Wolfgang and Herthe von Wersin had their first designs in the old Venetian hot glass techniques executed, a technique that they found particularly fascinating.[1]
 At the end of the 1930s Bruno Mauder, the director of the Technical College for Glass (Glasfachschule) in Zwiesel, discovered for himself free work at the furnace, which he saw as threatened with extinction. In 1944 he pled, “But a skill such as this should not and cannot be lost, for these techniques provide great services in the production of glass in general. Only very few present-day glassmakers still have mastery in this area, and it should therefore be insured that in the future as well there will be glassmakers who are made capable of such achievement”. [2]

Aloys Gangkofner was just as familiar with this plea by his teacher as he was with the efforts of the von Wersins, and he threw himself into the preservation of this craft with a corresponding intensity. He found three glass-makers in the Lamberts glass factory in Waldsassen who were especially skilled at these techniques, which had been believed lost.[3]
  Together with them, on weekends during the 1950s, he created unique glass objects with colored blots or threads melted into the glass, applied to its surface, or combed; these works were reminiscent of Venetian glass and closely related to those of von Wersin.[4]
 Despite their sometimes extreme forms, the objects’ original function is always recognizable: The turned and pressed containers, the thrown bowls, the elongated bottles and vases of pure glass or glass that contained bubbles could certainly still fulfill their purpose. But they are nonetheless the expression of a free, artistic creation, which is at odds with their function. The glass expert Walter Dexel saw Gangkofner’s works as a striving toward a timeless modern formal language and—because of their high artisanal quality—placed them in a direct line of descent from the historical glass of the Middle Ages. The uniqueness and the individual formal language of the glass objects form a contrast to the impersonal serial production of the growing glass industry. Based on the extensive color recipes of the Waldsassen glassworks, Gangkofner’s glass objects often possessed a refined coloration that was exceptional in the German tradition.[5] 

Gangkofner’s glass objects were exhibited already in 1954 at the X Triennial in Milan, where they had to withstand comparison with the products of international glassworks. His first German exhibition took place afterwards in the Neue Sammlung in Munich.[6] His international success probably inspired German manufacturers such as the Richard Süßmuth Glassworks in Immenhausen to adopt a free formal language into their programs.[7] The Hesse Glassworks in Stierstadt was able to convince Gangkofner to transfer his artisanal skill into serial production.

International Atmosphere of departure

In other countries, modern glass design was simultaneously arriving at similar solutions. In Murano after 1945 a love of experimentation developed, which liberated itself from traditionalisms and produced anti-functional glass objects with abstract decoration. One of the most innovative designers was Dino Martens, who combined the old threads technique with new colors and forms.[8]

In the 1950s Floris Meydam and Andries Dirk Copier created individual works of glass and objects under the name “Leerdam Unica” for the Dutch glass factory Leerdam, whose individual forms and colored decoration between the  layers is indebted to free work at the furnace.[9]
 At the same time, with his modern style, Vicke Lindstrand helped the glass manufacturer Kosta attain an international status. His glass objects, at times with very thick walls enclosing threads or thread-blot decoration, also originated directly in front of the furnace.[10]
 For the Danish glass factory in Holmegaard Per Lütken created dynamic, hot worked bowls and absurd vases.

The formal similarities with Gangkofner’s glasses are an expression of the international zeitgeist that marked the 1950s: The glasses are rich in tension, dynamic, formed organically, and characterized by a high standard of artisanship and technique. The glass designers were critically disposed towards the rigid, functional-geometric formalism that was to become characteristic of the 1960s. They thus smoothed the way for a new direction, the Studio Glass Movement, which led to glass art. Among the most important founders of this new movement in Germany was Erwin Eisch in Frauenau, who also studied with Gangkofner for a semester.[11]


The turn towards glass design

Gangkofner had discovered the possibility of a new form of artistic expression in glass, which had diverged from the purely artisanal, but he did not create glass art in the sense of the Studio Glass Movement. He was attracted to cooperation with industry, which offered a new challenge. He became the designer of serial products without ever referring to himself as a designer.

Starting in 1953 Gangkofner designed a program of lights for the company Peill + Putzler, which was known for its high standards in glass design.  Gangkofner’s designs drew upon the organic style influenced by Wilhelm Wagenfeld.[12]  But he increasingly moved away from his “classics,” as can be seen in his designs for double-shelled lamps. This type of lamp would become Peill + Putzler’s trademark and derived its charm from the interplay of colorless and opal glass.[13] They are an expression of the designer’s profound knowledge of his materials and his practical experience.[14] For the shades he sometimes chose melted threads, similar to those in free-worked glass. In this, the hot glass was turned against itself during its production. In this way, the model attained a dynamic sweep and fine individual differences with each execution. He additionally used enamel and ribbing to imitate engraving and cutting, thus reducing costs, and achieved a lively spatial depth through the optical overlapping. With ribbing, Gangkofner provided the static decoration of the lamp with a tactile relief, giving the lamp its special charm.

In form and technical execution, the glass goblets that Gangkofner designed for Peill + Putzler are in no way inferior to those of Löffelhardt for the Vereinigten Farbenglaswerke in Zwiesel or the designs of Heinrich Sattler for the Ichendorfer Glassworks near Cologne. They are typical of the time before mechanical production, when crystal glass was blown by hand and finished in cold work. In 1956 Gangkofner designed the long-stemmed delicate glass goblet “Iris”, whose reserved engraving only served to accentuate the form. The cut glasses “Allegro” with their asymmetrical foot are testaments to an early unconventional approach that mirrored the optimism of the 1950s. Ten years later similar approaches could be found among other designers, which were nonetheless typical of the 1960s in terms of style and production.[15]

In 1959 Gangkofner began to collaborate with lamp manufacturer ERCO Reininghaus & Co. in Lüdenscheid, which specialized in plastic lamps. As the first designer ever commissioned by the manufacturer,[16] the glass expert immersed himself without bias in the synthetic material and designed lamps that differed from the models for Peill + Putzler in their new austerity. ERCO had experience with plastic already in the 1930s in the form of Bakelite and Cellidor. Although as a substitute for glass, plastic was initially not very highly esteemed, for economic reasons it became increasingly important in lighting design.[17] The folded lampshades hint at a Danish influence. There Le Klint and Skandia had been manufacturing lamp-like shades of coated paper or plastic since the 1940s, which did not go unnoticed by German manufacturers.[18] From a functional perspective, the folding served to disperse the light. The plastic was sprayed and formed or molded in a vacuum, and thus, unlike glass, could not be further worked after being formed. The strictly horizontal or vertical alignment of the pattern was thus determined by the manufacturing process. The lightness of the material and a good ventilation system made it possible to hang several lamps closely together in groups, which became the fashion.[19]

Gangkofner’s designs decisively shaped the production of plastic lighting and were so successfulthatthey amounted to ERCO’s first foray into lighting design.[20]
 Under the management of Klaus Jürgen Maack product systems came to play a central role. Architectural lighting, shaped by industrial design, replaced the design of imposing lighting fixtures as practiced by Gangkofner.[21]

Light and architecture

But Gangkofner did not stop with serial lighting design. A decisive and characteristic theme throughout his work was his continuous interest in light in building. Starting in the 1950s he became involved in numerous building projects and was sometimes even responsible for the entire lighting conception of a new structure. In this context Gangkofner developed various prism modules, manufactured by Hesse Glassworks in Stierstadt, which he could combine at will into various arrangements, groupings, and rhythms. His goal here was the illumination of large areas. In this, he adopted quite early on the thinking in systems that had come from the furniture branch, decisively promoted by System M 125 by Hans Gugelot in 1950 and the Design School in Ulm. At the end of 1959 he was able to undertake the planning of the entire lighting for the Meistersingerhalle in Nuremberg. This project was characterized by a multitude of lighting types that would do justice to the differently functioning spaces such as entrance hall, foyer, cloakroom, concert hall, and stairway. He used prism formations for the concert areas, for example, in order to not to detract from the acoustics.[22]  The hanging lamps were destined for the small areas of social contact. A couple of years later he once again applied the same concept for furnishing the new Pfalzbau theatre in Ludwigshafen, where he placed similar surfaces of light.[23] In other projects, Gangkofner also transferred his concept of the modular system onto a line of lamps of crystal glass balls.[24]


Glass and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich

As his main occupation, Gangkofner taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich for forty years, his work as a glass and lighting designer taking a parallel course. During this time the only comparable training opportunity in southern Germany was at the Academy of Arts in Stuttgart. In contrast to Great Britain, Holland, or the Czech Republic, even today glass design remains an exception in German art academies. It is not included among the fine arts, because the fine arts are believed to entail an independence from material. But, in contrast, the training at the technical colleges—more functional in orientation—is strongly oriented along the lines of design and does not do justice to the demand for artistic freedom.[25]
 The resulting intermediary status could also be seen in the building itself. After the Academy of Applied Art merged with the Academy of Fine Arts in 1946 the glass workshop—like all the workshops for the applied arts—was placed on an intermediate floor created just for this purpose.[26]
 Squeezed into a narrow space and viewed critically by the representatives of the fine arts, Gangkofner was nonetheless able to secure the training in glass. His workshop belonged to the Department of Interior Architecture and was connected to the Chair for Decorative Painting and Interior Design. This resulted in a fruitful interaction between architecture and applied glass and led to works encompassing larger spaces. The most successful project in this respect was the laser installation on the occasion of the academy’s 175th anniversary celebration, which arose out of a collaboration with the Institute of Quantum Physics in Garching.[27]

The installation of a glass furnace in the ceramic workshop, in use from about 1954 to 1960, enabled students to learn free work at the furnace with the help of Waldsassen glassmakers. They were made familiar with the material glass by visiting several glass workshops. The glass workshop at the academy in Munich developed more and more independence until—at the prompting of students—in 1983 an independent Chair for Glass and Light was created. Renowned glass artists were students of Gangkofner, among them Karl Berg, Franz Xaver Höller, Ernst Krebs, Bernhard Schagemann, and Karin Stöckle-Krumbein.[28] When Gangkofner became an emeritus professor, a unique and lively era of glass training at the Munich academy came to an end.[29]

“I strove to create a unity between work, material, and form,” is how Gangkofner described the beginning of his successful Waldsassen period.[30] He never relinquished this holistic thinking. In this way he was able to unite artistic and industrial creativity.

Xenia Riemann

Reference below


Compiling my husband’s work not only in an illustrated volume but also for a website seemed necessary to me, since the time-span of a half century was making them slowly fade into oblivion. The post-war period with the beginnings of an economic upturn helped to pave the way for his extensive industrial designs as well as his many freelance works. Despite his great interest in the pursuit of new artistic possibilities, my husband always felt bound by the purpose of his task. His free-blown vessels – a source of great pleasure to himself and others – were the product of his artisanal skill and artistic versatility, paired with a sure sense of form.

This website does not attempt to provide a complete list of all his works, and even less a scholarly or historical interpretation of them. It is intended rather to offer a glimpse into my husband’s extensive work and at the same time give an impression of the creative possibilities of the 1950s and 1960s.

Ilsebill Gangkofner
Munich, 2013




Aloys F. Gangkofner’s oevre impressively reveals the broad span of his work. It clearly shows his close ties to craftsmanship and his grasp of what was possible at the furnace, which every glassmaker from the area around the glass centers of the Bavarian forest almost inevitably acquired along the way as the foundation for design. His collaboration with the glassmakers at the Lamberts Glassworks in Waldsassen demonstrates his participation during the 1950s in the European avant-garde’s pursuit of a freer glass design, which in the 1960s and 1970s under the catchphrase of the Studio Glass Movement would take the step towards a purely artistic posture and an independence from use and function.

But Gangkofner consciously did not take this step. He chose the path of the designer, who oriented his work in relation to its function and according to a form that was clear and simple but was recognizably marked with his individual handwriting. He unquestionably achieved this goal above all in serially produced lighting fixtures and his sweeping lighting concepts linked to architecture, which became his favorite field of creative endeavor. But also in his vases and sets of drinking glasses he made a contribution, characterized by his own personal expression, to the German culture of form of the post-was era.

Helmut Ricke
Düsseldorf, 2008



[1] The collaboration with Barovier privately and later on commission of the Deutsche Werkstätten took place in 1912, 1913, 1914, and 1926, see Alfred Ziffer, Wolfgang von Wersin 1882–1976, Vom Kunstgewerbe zur Industrieform (Munich, 1991, 181f.); Bernhard Siepen, “Deutsche Formen in venezianischem Glas – ein Rückblick,” Glaswelt 2 (1959), 9–10.

[2] Bruno Mauder, Meisterleistungen des Kunsthandwerks, Glas (Berlin, 1944), 5.

[3] Foremost among the glassmakers it is necessary to mention Ludwig Vorberger, who had already executed designs by the glass painter and designer Hans Theo Baumann in 1952. For his work from 1950 onwards, Baumann used antique glass from the glass workshops in Waldsassen. These objects can be found today in the Neuen Sammlung/Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich. Baumann’s hollow glass designs, which have been interpreted as the foundation stone for his later glass design, have scarcely been published: Wilhelm Siemen, “Hans Theo Baumann – Für das Design, Zur Biografie,” in H. Th. Baumann, Design, 1950–1990, exhib. cat. Museum der Deutschen Porzellanindustrie (Hohenberg an der Eger, 1990), 10, 134; Volker Kapp and H. Th. Baumann, Kunst und Design (Marburg/Lahn, 1989), 29; Florian Hufnagl, “Hans Theo Baumann zum 80. Geburtstag,” in Ein Querschnitt aus dem Schaffen von H. Th. Baumann 1950–2004. Ausstellung des Kunstvereins Schopfheim e.V. (Maulburg; 2004), 30.

[4] “Form und Farbe. Prof. Walter Dexel, Braunschweig, zu den freigeblasenen Gläsern von A. F. Gangkofner,” Glas im Raum 2/10 (1954), 12f.; Bernhard Siepen, “Die Lage im Kunstglas und ein Beispiel der Tat,” Glas im Raum 3 (1954), 2–4; idem, “Gangkofner-Gläser. Freigeblasene Gläser ganz neuer Prägung,” Glasforum 4 (1954).

[5] “Form und Farbe. Prof. Walter Dexel, Braunschweig, zu den freigeblasenen Gläsern von A. F. Gangkofner,” Glas im Raum 2/10 (1954), 12; “A. F. Gangkofner, München, schreibt zu seinen eigenen Arbeiten,” Glas im Raum, 2/10 (1954), 14: The glass workshop Waldsassen had in its possession approximately 4,500 color recipes.

[6] Bernhard Siepen, “Glas aus Deutschland auf der X. Triennale gezeigt,” Glas im Raum, 3/3 (1955), 9f., illust.; Die Neue Sammlung – Staatliches Museum für angewandte Kunst München: Archive 1069 / A. F. Gangkofner Exhibition

[7] Hanns Model, “Glasbummel durch die Deutsche Handwerksmesse,” Glas im Raum 4/5 (1956), 9, illust.

[8] Helmut Ricke and Eva Schmitt (ed.), Italienisches Glas. Murano, Mailand 1930–1970 (Munich and New York, 1996), 21f.

[9] Helmut Ricke (ed.), Leerdam Unica. 50 Jahre modernes niederländisches Glas (Düsseldorf, 1977), XIX.

[10] Helmut Ricke and Ulrich Gronert (ed.), Glas in Schweden, 1915–1960 (Munich, 1986), 42f.

[11] Eisch had direct contact with the seven-year-older Gangkofner during his study visits at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. The trained glass engraver went there after his training with Bruno Mauder at the Technical College in Zwiesel. His opaque glass objects radically ques-tioned earlier, traditional views of design. Already in the 1950s, before his meeting with the father of the American Studio Glass Movement, Harvey K. Littleton, the sculptor conceived of glass as an independent medium; see Bernhard Siepen, “Gesundes Neues aus dem Bayerischen Wald: Eisch-Gläser,” Glas im Raum 3/4 (1955), 6; Helmut Ricke, Neues Glas in Europa. 50 Künstler – 50 Konzepte (Düsseldorf, 1990), 254–257.

[12] “Opalglasleuchten von Peill & Putzler,” MD (Möbel und Dekoration) 11 (1959), 568–570.

[13] The glass designer Heinrich Fuchs is considered the inventor of this type of light; see Bernhard Siepen, “Gutes Neues in Gläsern und Glasleuchten auf der Hannover-Messe,” Glas im Raum 4/6 (1956), 6; Gerhard Krohn, Lampen und Leuchten. Ein internationaler Formenquerschnitt (Munich, 1962), 131 (Fuchs).

[14] “Glasleuchten in ausgereiften Formen. Nach Entwürfen von Prof. Wagenfeld,” Glasforum 6 (1953), 32–34; “Moderne Formen und Dekors,” Glas im Raum 4 (1954), 11 (Wagenfeld); Bernhard Siepen, “Gutes Neues in Gläsern und Glasleuchten auf der Hannover-Messe,” Glas im Raum 4/5 (1956), 6, illust. (Wagenfeld, Gangkofner); “Hängeleuchten,” MD (Möbel und Dekoration) 7 (1959), 377 (Wagenfeld, Gangkofner).

[15] I Colombo. Joe Colombo 1930–1971. Gianni Colombo 1937–1993, exhib. cat. Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Bergamo (Milan, 1995), 137.

[16] A sales representative who also represented Peill + Putzler recommended the glass designer Gangkofner to ERCO. He was thus the first glass designer engaged by ERCO; Klaus Jürgen Maack, conversation with the author, Lüdenscheid, 8 January, 2008.

[17] In the 1950s Wolfgang Tümpel, at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (College of Fine Arts) in Hamburg, was working with Plexiglas for the Doria-Werk in Fürth and the company hesse-leuchten was using the plastic Lystra. One of the leading producers of lighting in Europe was the Danish manufacturer Louis Poulson, which offered models of acrylic plastic; see Gerhard Krohn, Lampen und Leuchten (Munich, 1962), 184f, nos. 705, 708, 709 (Tümpel, Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg); Claudia Gross-Roath, Jetzt kommt Licht ins Wirtschaftswunder ... Erhellende Worte zum Thema Beleuchtung in den 50er Jahren. Studies in European Culture, 2 (Weimar, 2005), 46, 186 (Tümpel, illust.); “Lystra-Leuchten von Hermann Hesse,” MD (Möbel und Dekoration) 6 (1960), 308; “Lampen von Louis Poulsen & Co. A/S,” MD (Möbel und Dekoration) 5 (1959), 265.

[18] “Der Neubau für die Generaldirektion der ‘Allianz’ am Englischen Garten in München,” Baumeister 10 (1955), 680 (Skandia); Roberto Aloi, Esempi di decorazione moderna di tutto il mondo. Illuminazione d’oggi (Milan, 1956), 176; MD (Möbel und Dekoration) 1 (1959), 15, 49 (Le Klint); “Leuchten der Werkstatt Ernamaria Fahr,” MD (Möbel und Dekoration) 7 (1959), 368f.; Gerhard Krohn, Lampen und Leuchten. Ein internationaler Formenquerschnitt (Munich, 1962), 105 (Skandia), 122 (Le Klint).

[19] “Kunststoff-Leuchtenserie von Reininghaus & Co,” MD (Möbel und Dekoration) 9 (1963), 474f.

[20] Klaus Jürgen Maack, conversation with the author, Lüdenscheid, 8 January, 2008. In addition to Gangkofner, who worked for ARCO until 1968, during the 1960s, Maack engaged other international designers such as Terence Conran, Ettore Sottsass, Roger Tallon, and Dieter Witte, as well as Otl Aicher in the 1970s for redesigning the company’s corporate identity; see Rat für Formgebung (ed.), Klaus Jürgen Maack. Design oder die Kultur des Angemessenen (Braunschweig, 1993), 28.

[21] Dramatic lighting designs as well as low voltage and stereo technology catch on; Klaus Jürgen Maack, conversation with the author, 11 January, 2008; Rat für Formgebung (ed.), Klaus Jürgen Maack. Design oder die Kultur des Angemessenen (Braunschweig, 1993), 13f.; Claudia Gross-Roath, Jetzt kommt Licht ins Wirtschaftswunder ... Erhellende Worte zum Thema Beleuchtung in den 50er Jahren. Studies in European Culture, 2 (Weimar, 2005), 170, 188f.

[22] “Meistersingerhalle in Nürnberg,” Baumeister 3 (1964), 244.

[23] Franz Winzinger, Die Meistersingerhalle in Nürnberg (Munich, 1967), 21–61; Neuer Pfalzbau Ludwigshafen am Rhein (Mannheim, 1968), 68, 100–118.

[24] “Kosmetik-Werk bei München. Management und Femininität,” Baumeister 1968, 865–70, 867 illust. (crystal chandelier); Neuer Pfalzbau Ludwigshafen am Rhein (Mannheim, 1968), 68, 113.

[25] Franz Xaver Höller, Technical College for Glass in Zwiesel, conversation with the author about glass training in Germany, 6 January, 2008.

[26] Thomas Zacharias (ed.), Tradition und Widerspruch. 175 Jahre Kunstakademie München (Munich, 1985), 319; Before 1946 the training in “Glasmalen,” or glass painting (cold working techniques) was a part of the general educational program at the Academy of Applied Arts in Munich; see Claudia Schmalhofer, Die Kgl. Kunstgewerbeschule München (1868–1918). Ihr Einfluss auf die Ausbildung der Zeichenlehrerinnen (Munich, 2005), 89.

[27] Natalie Fuchs and Helmut R. Vogl, Licht und Raum. Eine Semesteraufgabe der Klasse Glas + Licht (Prof. A. Gangkofner) und zugleich ein Beitrag zum 175jährigen Jubiläum der Akademie der Bildenden Künste München (Munich, 1989).

[28] Helmut Ricke, Neues Glas in Deutschland (Düsseldorf, 1983), 122, 158, 227, 253; I would like to give special thanks to Ilsebill Gangkofner, Munich, Dr. Helmut Ricke of the Glasmuseum Hentrich in Düsseldorf, and Annette Doms, DGG, Offenbach am Main for their support. I would also like to warmly thank Klaus Jürgen Maack, former managing director of ERCO, for his clarification of the development of lighting design at ERCO.

[29] Gangkofner’s successor was Ludwig Gosewitz. In 2001 the Chair was changed to the Chair for Ceramics and Glass. Frau Grill, Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, conversations with the author on 16 December, 2007 and 3 January, 2008.

[30] From a manuscript accompanying an exhibition of his glass in the Landesgewerbeamt Stuttgart, 1954 (private collection).