Schmidt-Rottluff did not see himself as a painter and printmaker only. He was also keenly interested in the decorative arts, an attitude which probably stemmed from the Art Nouveau idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk and of the artist as shaper and transformer of all aspects of life.
It was probably during his sojourn at the Hardanger-Fjord in Norway during the summer of 1911, and possibly inspired by Norwegian folk art, that he created his first decorative objects. In the autumn of the same year he had his third exhibition at the Galerie Commeter, which was exclusively devoted to 15 carved and painted wooden boxes. One year later, at the Sonderbund-Exhibition in 1912 in Cologne, Schmidt-Rottluff not only exhibited three paintings, but also contributed to the Decorative Arts section of the show with three pieces.
Wilhelm Niemeyer, one of the organisers of the Sonderbund Exhibitions, had by that time become a teacher at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Hamburg and was one of the driving forces for a modernisation of the decorative arts in Germany. Niemeyer was amongst the first collectors to acquire Schmidt-Rottluff's decorative objects, including the present mask, two wooden boxes and textiles (see lots 213-216). The photograph of Niemeyer shows him with a silver tie-pin designed by the artist.
Schmidt-Rottluff's greatest project as a designer, the decorations for Rosa Schapire's flat in the Osterbekstrasse in Hamburg, is unfortunately lost, partly destroyed during World War II, partly confiscated and sold off by the Gestapo. In 1921 she had commissioned the artist to design the entire interiour for her, including furniture, carpets, pillows and various objects in wood and metal.
(Gerhard Wietek, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff in Hamburg und Schleswig-Holstein, Neumünster, 1984, p. 12 ff.; and Gerhard Wietek, Schmidt-Rottluff - Oldenburger Jahre, Mainz, 1995, p. 528.)