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Margaret Leischner

  • The designer Margaret Leischner lived in England from 1938, worked for textile and furniture companies, taught at the Royal College of Art and was honoured as Royal Designer for Industry.
  • Margaret
  • Leischner
  • Frida Margarete Leischner

  • 15-04-1907
  • Bischofswerda (DE)
  • 18-05-1970
  • Maplehurst (GB)
  • Textile Designer
  • The designer Margaret Leischner lived in England from 1938, worked for textile and furniture companies, taught at the Royal College of Art and was honoured as Royal Designer for Industry.

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  • Tintawn Carpets brochure featuring designs by Margaret Leischner (Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Margaret Leischner Papers, Folder 6, Inv. No. 7568).
  • From a Bauhaus student in Dessau, Frida Margarete Leischner, later Margaret Leischner, became an award-winning textile designer in her British exile. Leischner’s work was sustainably shaped by her studies in the textile workshop of the Bauhaus (1927–30). In Dessau, Leischner learned to respond to the needs of industry and to tackle design problems in a research-oriented manner. Knowledge of materials, fabric calculation and weaving theory were the technical basics and expertise that every student had to learn. The artistic design was to be created by examining the properties of the material. After completing her course in 1930, Margaret Leischner worked as an assistant to the Bauhaus master Gunta Stölzl and was in charge of the dyeworks. In 1931, she moved to the Deutsche Werkstätten (German workshop) in Hellerau as a designer for home textiles. From 1932 to 1936 Leischner was also head of the weaving department at the Berlin Textile and Fashion School. Both her practical and teaching experience stood her in good stead when she began a new life in exile in England. Although Leischner, as a non-Jew, did not belong to a racially persecuted group, she left National Socialist Germany in 1938, presumably for political and professional reasons. Leischner presumably received a job offer from England. She was one of several Bauhäusler who were exiled in Great Britain, under them Otti Berger, Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius, Lucia Moholy, and László Moholy-Nagy as well as Lux Feininger and Andreas Feininger in the US.

    Margaret Leischner found work opportunities in and around Manchester, a creative centre of the British textile industry. During the war, she was interned as an enemy alien for several years. Leischner was probably initially declared exempt from internment in Durham in October 1939, but was later sent to an internment camp on the Isle of Man (Rushen Camp, Port Erin) in April 1940. She was released on 5 August 1942 and went to Salmesbury near Blackburn/Lancashire. Of great importance for her after her release were her contacts with British industrialists and renowned cultural figures, including Herbert Read, who maintained contacts with many German artists, introduced her to English designers and followed her work in England with interest (Read 1944).

    From 1944, Leischner developed new yarns and fabrics as a consultant and designer for the R. Greg & Co. cotton spinning mill in Stockport, and also for other clients such as Fothergill & Harvey and the British Overseas Airways Cooperation (BOAC). She benefited from the experimental approach she had learned at the Bauhaus, which was open to innovation and technical progress. In collaboration with laboratories, she had new materials produced (fibres and yarns) and new processing techniques tested; she also dealt intensively with the production of shapes and colours in line with market requirements. For example, she developed aircraft interiors and plastic covers for car seats made of hard-wearing Tygan, a synthetic yarn. She successfully advised the Guy Rogers furniture company to use Harris tweed, a pure new wool fabric produced in Scotland and used for clothing, for their upholstered furniture.

    From 1948 to 1963, Leischner taught as head of the weaving class at the Royal College of Art in London. In this capacity, the designer professionalised the course and drew on her own study experiences at the Bauhaus. Through the artist Louis le Brocquy, with whom she taught at the Royal Academy, Leischner came into contact with the Irish company Irish Ropes, founded in 1933 and based in Newbridge in County Kildare (Conlan 2009, 106). Irish Ropes produced sisal carpets, among other things, and in the years before Leischner joined the company (1959) had already experimented with sisal weaving techniques and launched the brand ‘Tintawn Carpets’. The challenge of working for Irish Ropes was to creatively design the bulky natural material sisal, which was ideally suited as a hard-wearing covering due to its resilience, but had to be processed according to certain specifications. Leischner saw to it that a new collection was launched, and was responsible for colour concepts and patterns. The company brochure carries a photograph of her and states that Margaret Leischner is “Tutor in Textile Design at the Royal College of Art, London, who has achieved international repute as a designer, is at her brilliant best in the colourways illustrated below.” (Anonymous n.d.)

    As early as 1946, designs by Margaret Leischner were part of the major national Britain Can Make It exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, which presented exemplary industrial design (Maguire/Woodham 1997, 78f.). In the same year, Margaret Leischner, together with the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, the texile designer Enid Marx and others, was part of a team of specialists sent to post-war Germany by the British military intelligence service British Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee (BIOS). The aim of the mission was to investigate the state of German product design in industrial enterprises in the American and British occupation zones. In this capacity, Leischer visited companies with a focus on textiles, floor coverings, wallpaper, furniture and metal processing on two short trips in September and December 1946 (Sudrow 2012, 61). In a “Letter from Germany” describing the results of her trip to post-war Germany, Leischner draws a rather sobering summary of the creative power of German textile production: “Travelling through Germany, the feeling grows that their development has been arrested since the days before Hitler’s influence began to be felt. The average level of production of consumer goods, with a few exceptions, is reminiscent of the achievements of the 1930’s.” (Leischner n.d. [1946]) It is noteworthy that both Pevsner and Leischner obtained British citizenship in the course of these BIOS trips, which enabled them to travel abroad as members of military intelligence (Sudrow 2012, 62).
    On her BIOS trips, Margaret Leischner also visited and interviewed Georg Muche, a textile designer with whom she was already acquainted from her previous life in Germany (Pevsner et al. 1946/2012, 213). Shortly after the end of the Second World War, Leischner had also sought contact with former companions at the Bauhaus, and was in correspondence with Walter Gropius and Joost Schmidt, but was in particularly regular contact with Bauhäusler such as Lucia Moholy and Heinz Loew, who, like her, lived in England.
    In her writings, Leischner often referred back to her experiences at the Bauhaus, praising the art school as groundbreaking and formulating design recommendations for the present and future. Thus, her essays, lectures and reviews can also be interpreted as indirect contacts with former Bauhäusler and the Bauhaus itself as an institution. In professional circles, her Bauhaus origins were well known and in the 1960s she was invited to write reviews of new publications about the Bauhaus, such as Hans M. Wingler’s books Das Bauhaus 1919–1933 (1962) and Graphic Works from the Bauhaus, as well as reviews of reissues of Bauhaus books. (Leischner 1971) Particularly important for Leischner was the Bauhaus exhibition at the Royal Academy in London in 1968, which attracted many former friends and colleagues to the city, including Gropius.

    In her new home country, Margaret Leischner’s work received extensive recognition: she became a member of the honourable Society of Industrial Artists in 1952. From 1955, she was also active as a consultant in India, where she advised the government on the development of the national handloom industry, especially in Kashmir. Leischner received special recognition shortly before her death with the title “Royal Designer for Industry” (RDI) in 1969. This award, introduced by the Royal Society of Arts in 1936, is still the highest honour for designers in Great Britain.

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  • Margaret Leischner, Advertisement for BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation), seat fabrics, 1955 (Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Margaret Leischner Papers, Folder 12, Inv. No. 75693).
    Brochure: “Choose comfort with Guy Rogers for 1963” featuring Leischner’s fabric for the ‘New Yorker’ upholstered furniture series (Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Margaret Leischner Papers, Folder 6, Inv. No. 10523).
    Company brochure: “Design in Yarn”, R. Greg & Co. Ltd. South Reddish, Stockport (Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Margaret Leischner Papers, Folder 6, Inv. No. 10522).
    Tintawn Carpets brochure (Eileen Ellis, Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2011).
    Margaret Leischner, Sisal sample Tintawn Carpets, 1960s (Eileen Ellis, Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2011).
    Margaret Leischner obituary, by Donald Tomlinson, Design Journal, vol. 5, no. 259, 1970, p. 83 (Photo: Private Archive).
  • Anonymous. Tintawn Carpets. Margaret Leischner Papers (broshure, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, n.d.), Folder 6, Inv. No. 7568.

    Conlan, Frank. “Margaret Leischner (1907– 1970) – A Bauhaus Designer in Newbridge, Co. Kildare.” Creative Influences. Selected Irish-German Biographies (Irish-German Studies, 4), edited by Joachim Fischer and Gisela Holfter, Wvt Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2009, pp. 99–108.

    Das Bauhaus webt. Die Textilwerkstatt am Bauhaus, edited by Magdalena Droste and Manfred Ludewig, exh. cat. Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, Dessau, 1998.

    Dogramaci, Burcu. “Bauhaus-Transfer. Die Textildesignerin Margaret Leischner (1907–1970) in Dessau und im britischen Exil.” Entfernt. Frauen des Bauhauses während der NS-Zeit – Verfolgung und Exil, edited by Inge Hansen-Schaberg et al., edition text + kritik, 2012, pp. 95–116.

    Dogramaci, Burcu. “Margarete Leischner.” Frauen am Bauhaus. Wegweisende Künstlerinnen der Moderne, edited by Patrick Rössler and Elizabeth Otto, translated by Birgit van der Avoort, Knesebeck 2019, pp. 108–109.

    Hurle, Ruth. “Miss Leischner and the Bauhaus.” Quarterly Journal of the Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, vol. 19, no. 79, 1971, pp. 1476–1478.

    Leischner, Margaret. Letter from Germany (typed report, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, n.d. [1946]).

    Leischner, Margaret. “Das Bauhaus. By Hans M. Wingler (review).” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol. 111, no. 5086, September 1963, pp. 847–848. JSTOR, Accessed 7 March 2021.

    Leischner, Margaret. “Furniture in Britain to-day. By Dennis and Barbara Young (review).” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol. 113, no. 5107, June 1965, p. 545. JSTOR, Accessed 7 March 2021.

    Leischner, Margaret. “On Design.” Textiles of Ireland, no. 1, 1966, offprint, n.p. (Bauhaus-Archiv/Museum für Gestaltung, Berlin).

    Leischner, Margaret. “Design Management. By Michael Farr (review).” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol. 115, no. 5131, June 1967, pp. 569–570. JSTOR, Accessed 7 March 2021.

    Leischner, Margaret. “The Bauhaus a legend?.” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol. 116, no. 5148, November 1968, pp. 1048–1049. JSTOR, Accessed 7 March 2021.

    Leischner, Margaret. “Principles of Neo-Plastic Art by Theo van Doesborg, Painting, Photography, Film by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Graphic Works from the Bauhaus by H. M. Wingler, Gerald Onn (review).” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol. 118, no. 5161, December 1969, pp. 48–49. JSTOR, Accessed 7 March 2021.

    Maguire, Patrick J., and Jonathan Woodham, editors. Design and Cultural Politics in Postwar Britain: The Britain Can Make It Exhibition of 1946. Leicester University Press, 1997.

    Nyburg, Anna. “Textile in Exile: Refugee Textile Surface Designers in Britain.” Applied Arts in British Exile from 1933. Changing Visual and Material Culture (The Yearbook of the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies, 19), edited by Marian Malet et al., Brill/Rodopi, 2019, pp. 212–228.

    Pevsner, Nikolaus, et al. Geheimreport Deutsches Design. Deutsche Konsumgüter im Visier des britischen Council of Industrial Design (1946) (Deutsches Museum, Abhandlungen und Berichte, Neue Folge, 28), edited by Anne Sudrow, Wallstein, 2012.

    Read, Herbert. Letter to Margaret Leischner. Margaret Leischner Papers (Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, 5 December 1944).

    Sudrow, Anne. “Der ‘Moderne’ auf der Spur. Das deutsche Design als Zielobjekt des britischen Geheimdienstes BIOS in der frühen Nachkriegszeit.” Pevsner, Nikolaus, et al. Geheimreport Deutsches Design. Deutsche Konsumgüter im Visier des britischen Council of Industrial Design (1946) (Deutsches Museum, Abhandlungen und Berichte, Neue Folge, 28), edited by Anne Sudrow, Wallstein, 2012, pp. 11–105.

    Tomlinson, Donald. “Obituary. Margaret Leischner.” Design Journal, vol. 5, no. 259, 1970, p. 83.

    Wortmann-Weltge, Sigrid. Bauhaus-Textilien. Kunst und Künstlerinnen der Webwerkstatt. Edition Stemmle, 1993.

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  • Bauhaus-Archiv/Museum für Gestaltung, Berlin.

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  • My deepest thanks go to Eileen Ellis, Marian Malet and Joe McCabe.

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  • Burcu Dogramaci
  • GB (1938–1970).

  • Royal Society of Arts, 8 John Adam Street, Westminster, London WC2 (member as Royal Designer for Industry, 1969).

  • London
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "Margaret Leischner." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 21-06-2021.
  • Hans Schleger
    Graphic Designer

    Some of the most important work of Hans Schleger was created for London Transport. He relaunched London Transport bus stop signs and was responsible for a series of Blackout posters.

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    Herbert Read
    Art HistorianArt CriticPoet

    The British art historian Herbert Read established himself as a central figure in the London artistic scene in the 1930s and was one of the outstanding supporters of exiled artists.

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    Visual Pleasures from Everyday Things

    Visual Pleasures from Everyday Things is a booklet written in 1946 by the emigrated architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner with the aim of aesthetic education and teacher training.

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    László Moholy-Nagy
    PhotographerGraphic DesignerPainterSculptor

    László Moholy-Nagy emigrated to London in 1935, where he worked in close contact with the local avantgarde and was commissioned for window display decoration, photo books, advertising and film work.

    Word Count: 30

    Andreas Feininger
    New York

    Andreas Feininger, was a German émigré photographer who arrived in New York with his wife Wysse Feininger in 1939. He started a lifelong career exploring the city's streets, working as a photojournalist and writing a large number of photography manuals.

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    Otti Berger
    Textile DesignerWeaver

    The textile designer and weaver Otti Berger lived in exile in London in 1937/38, where she sought to open up a new field of activity.

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    T. Lux Feininger
    New York

    Lux T. Feininger was a German-American émigré photographer and painter and the brother of the photographer Andreas Feininger, arriving in 1936 in New York. Although he started taking photographs during the 1920s in Germany, Feininger is better known for his career as a painter and his photographic work is largely unacknowledged.

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    A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939

    Six years after her arrival in London, the photographer Lucia Moholy published her book A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939, on the occasion of the centenary of photography.

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