Beginning in the 1940s, Swiss artist Sasha Morgenthaler, a formally trained protégé of painter Paul Klee, chose dollmaking as her favorite medium for expression. A humanitarian married to fellow artist Ernest Morgenthaler, Sasha traveled the world, interacting with children from a wide variety of cultures and races. These kids became the inspiration for her art—20-inch, one-of-a-kind dolls made out of cloth, gypsum, and plastic.
Her handmade dolls, which she made until her death in 1975, were sold in Switzerland through her studio and the Heimatwerk shops, and in the United States at Marshall Field & Co. But even the handmade dolls she intended as playthings were just too expensive for most families. Morgenthaler dreamed of producing an affordable doll that would appeal to all children. In the mid-1960s she made that happen with Sasha.
Sasha was a 16-inch hard vinyl doll produced by Götz-Puppenfabrik in Germany (1965-1970 and 1995-2001) and Trendon Ltd. in England (1966-1986). These quarter-scale dolls, which were sold all over the world, had distinguishing stylized facial features and realistically proportioned asymmetrical body parts. Their feet were flat, which allowed them to stand on their own. In fact, they were so well-balanced, they could even stand on their heads.
The Trendon Sasha dolls could be dressed as girls, boys, or babies and came in three flesh tones, depending on whether the doll had black, brown, or blond hair. The socket head turned, the molded hands had joined fingers but separate thumbs, and the long rooted nylon hair could be brushed into bangs.
The German dolls also had similar bodies, rooted hair, and painted eyes and lips, but the painting differed in style. German Sashas had the “Sasha” mark on their backs and necks, whereas the English dolls had no marking. All Sasha dolls were sold with a string tied to a medallion printed with the Sasha logo on their right wrists.
Vintage German Sasha dolls are more common in Europe than America, while vintage English Sasha dolls are more likely to be found in the United States. The English Sashas suffered the same fate that most English dolls faced in the mid-’80s: The once-thriving British doll industry nearly came to halt at the time, thanks to Asian toy factories churning out much-cheaper dolls for American consumption. The dolls from the recent German Sasha revival are common throughout American and Europe.