Designer Desire: Richard Koppe

Mosaic of Richard Koppe artwork | H is for Home

Richard Koppe (1916-1973) was an American modernist artist, designer and educator. In the late 1930s, Koppe attended the New Bauhaus in Chicago where he was taught by László Moholy-Nagy. You can really see the tutor’s influence on the pupil’s style.

For ages we’ve hankered after a menu he designed in 1948 for Well of the Sea restaurant located in the basement of Hotel Sherman, Chicago. Examples appear on eBay occasionally – but they are never cheap!

He produced other designs for the restaurant including 5 impressive ‘glow in the dark’ wall murals, coloured recessed back-lighting and kinetic mobiles. A range of crockery was produced for the restaurant by Shenango in 1953 using his designs. Someone on Zazzle is currently producing exact replicas of this restaurant-ware; putting it to china, melamine and textile home accessories.

We have an illustration painted by Cal Dunn of one of Koppe’s Well of the Sea murals in one of our vintage cookbooks, ‘The Ford Treasury of Favourite Recipes from Famous Eating Places‘. We’ve also found a couple of  contemporary black & white photographs of the restaurant here and here.

Richard Koppe exhibited widely at international institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Academy in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Academy in Philadelphia, the Royal Academy of Art in London, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

He also taught for many years as Head of Visual Design and Fine Arts at the Institute of Design (ID) at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and later as Professor of Art at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Portrait of Richard Koppecredit

Additional image credits:

Art in America magazine | Corbett vs Dempsey | Elmhurst Art Museum | Invaluable | Flickr