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Lot 112: JOSEF HOFFMANN (1890-1956). WIENER WERKSTATTE / STÄNDIGE AUSSTELLUNG. Hand-stenciled design. 1905. 35x24 inches, 90x62 cm.Platinum House
December 18, 2013
New York, NY, USALive Auction
JOSEF HOFFMANN (1890-1956) WIENER WERKSTATTE / STÄNDIGE AUSSTELLUNG. Hand-stenciled design. 1905.
35 1/2x24 1/2 inches, 90 1/2x62 1/2 cm.
Condition B+: restored losses in bottom margin, affecting black background; chipping and minor losses at edges; repaired tears at edges; abrasions and minor restoration in image; horizontal fold. Mounted on chartex.
The Wiener Werkstätte was founded in 1903 by Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann. Influenced by the British Arts & Crafts Movement, specifically the colony of artists formed by Charles Robert Ashbee, the Werkstätte had as its objective the fabrication of exquisitely wrought and wonderfully designed everyday objects. Envisioned as a close collaboration of artisans and craftsmen that would champion handmade work over machine-made mass-produced items, Werkstätte artists set their lofty goal on Gesamtkunst, the notion of "total art."Shortly after the group was formed, they moved to a new location at Neustiftgasse 32-34, where they remained based until their dissolution in 1932. The three-story space housed their studios, workshops and showroom for their metal, gold and silver work, bookbinding, leatherwork, furniture, paint shop and more.Within these premises, specific colors were used to symbolize the different departments: blue was the theme of the woodworking and cabinetry space; red, the color of the metal workshops; grey for the bookbinding studio; violet for the silver workshop; yellow for the paint shop, and so on. The "color scheme" extended to the order and delivery forms for each department in order to make administration easier. In 1905, Werkstätte artists designed approximately 40 hand-stenciled posters for these showrooms. Each unique piece was the same size and featured a pre-printed, rectangular block of text bearing the iconic, stylized Werkstätte logo designed by Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser. The rest of the paper was left blank to be filled in by the artists' imagination. Of the original stencils, only three are known to have survived. In addition to this one, there is another by Hoffmann (with a repeating beehive motif in blue and black), which remains in the Albertina. A third design, by Koloman Moser (which is also part of the Julius Paul Collection), is currently on view at an exhibition of his works at the Fine Arts Museum, Houston. Of the rest, all that remain are black and white photographs. The vibrant, color-centric abstract designs of each poster supports the assumption that these one-of-a-kind images were intended to hang in their color-themed workshop counterparts.Denscher explains that "this especially beautiful example of the new aesthetic . . . [was] part of a crafted series of indoor posters with which attention was drawn to the standing showroom of Wiener Werkstätte" (Denscher p. 142). Kossatz mentions that this image is also used on the cover of a Wiener Werkstätte brochure from 1905 and that "the exact same design as that of the text block was used as the advertisement of the Wiener Werkstätte in the catalogue of the seventeenth exhibition of the Hagenbund (November 1905 - January 1906)" (Vienna Secession p. 76).The early years of the Werkstätte, during which the influence of German Jugendstil, the British Arts & Crafts Movement, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow School, inspired the young Austrian designers, are considered the classic and most desirable period of the organization for collectors.This bold, geometric image is a pioneering landmark of late 19th and early 20th century design and can be considered an equal among such other monumental works as Mackintosh's 1896 poster for the Scottish Musical Review, Koloman Moser's 1902 poster for the 13th Exhibition of the Vienna Secession and Joost Schmidt's 1923 poster for the Bauhaus Exhibition. Vienna Secession 20, Denscher p. 140, Muller-Brockman p. 160 (var), Wiener Plakat 40.