Ludwig Yehuda Wolpert, 1900–1981, metalsmith and designer.
Ludwig Wolpert was born in a village near Heidelberg to a family that was poor in financial resources but rich in Jewish tradition. His deeply religious, almost mystical, father would remain a profound influence on Wolpert’s life and the sensitivity with which he handled Jewish themes in his work.1Briggs, Kenneth A. Museum Show Honors Wolpert. New York: The New York Times, July 4, 1976, p. 34.
In 1916, Wolpert received a scholarship from the Gesellschaft zur Förderung des Handwerks unter den Juden (Society for the Advancement of Handicrafts among Jews) to study at Frankfurt am Main’s Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Applied Arts).2Kanof, Abram, Jewish Ceremonial Art and Religious Observance. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1970, p.35. He studied there until 1920. After a few years working on his own as an independent sculptor, Wolpert returned to the Kunstgewerbeschule to study metalsmithing under Bauhaus designer Christian Dell and silversmith Leo Horovitz, who had his own workshop with his brother, mainly producing ceremonial objects for synagogues. Working in the brothers’ workshop, Wolpert found his calling. He decided to dedicate himself to making traditional Jewish ceremonial objects in a modern style. His work received its first significant exposure at the Berlin exhibition, Kult und Form (Ritual and Form), in 1931. Emmy Roth was among the group of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish artists represented.3Pleß, Will, Neuzeitliche Jüdische Kultgeräte, Menorah, 9 (1931), Heft 3–4, p. 149-50.
With the rise of Nazism, Wolpert immigrated to Palestine in 1933. In 1935, he began teaching at the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem and co-headed the metal department. At the same time, he pursued his own work in the Bezalel workshop and is credited with bringing modern design concepts of simplified forms and sleek lines, often featuring Hebrew letters and inscriptions, to Judaica. His work came to the attention of Americans when his silver torah ornaments4Jewish Palestine Pavilion Catalogue, Exhibition and Sale, September 27-October 27, 1940. Printed by the Siebel Company, New York were displayed at the Palestine Pavilion in the 1939 World’s Fair. In 1942, he established his own workshop in Jerusalem.5Wikipedia entry for Ludwig Wolpert Then, in 1956, after helping to educate two generations of craftsmen in Israel, Wolpert accepted the invitation of Abraham Kanof and Stephen Kayser to come to New York. Together, they established the Tobe Pascher Workshop at the Jewish Museum, where Wolpert continued to teach and create for the rest of his life.
Ludwig Wolpert (listed as “Jehuda Wolpert, Jerusalem (Religious articles) Distributed by M. Streesover, 11 Essex St., New York City”) was one of the exhibitors in the Israel Exposition for the Bonds of Israel in New York. On May 14, 1953, Ismar David wrote to Henry Montor, Vice President of the American Financial and Development Corporation for Israel.
To: Mr. Henry Montor
Bonds for Israel
120 Broadway, NY
From: Ismar David
130 West 46th Street
Room 401, NY
Subject: Wrought-Iron Menorah designed by Y. Wolpert
In accordance with telephone conversations held with your office, I would like to urge that consideration be given to the request made by Mr. Yehuda Wolpert of Jerusalem and Dr. Kayser of the Jewish Museum for the loan of the wrought-iron menorah now held at the Exposition.
I have known Mr. Wolpert in Jerusalem for many years and have also know of his having designed this particular menorah. Later, collaborating with a Mr. Sigman, he had it made at the Sigman Workshop.
Furthermore, at the time of the arrival of the exhibits in New York I remember distinctly seeing a card attached to the menorah which indicated that it had arrived from the Sigman Workshop and listed the name of Mr. Wolpert as the designer. This card was lost at the Exposition.
Since I know Mr. Wolpert to be one of the very few exhibitors who generously lent his valuable menorah free of charge, and who tried to cooperate with us in every respect, I would be very grateful if you would authorize the release of this menorah for the short period of the exhibit at the Jewish Museum.