Wiener Werkstätte – Vienna Workshop (1903-1932)

Established in 1903, the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) was a production community of visual artists in Vienna, Austria bringing together architects, artists and designers.

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Around the year 1900 the city of Vienna was, next to Paris, one of Europe’s leading cultural centres.

Against this background, the architect Josef Hoffmann, the graphic designer and painter Koloman Moser and the modern-minded patron Fritz Waerndorfer decided to establish the now world-famous Vereinigung für Kunsthandwerk (Arts and Crafts Association) Wiener Werkstätte.

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Marchio della Fabbrica Viennese
Logo of the Austrian company Wiener Werkstätte

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This “productive cooperative of artisans” was to produce high-quality craftwork to fulfill all manner of everyday needs (with products including furniture, works of architecture, porcelain, glass and apparel), in close contact between artists and consumers. With its pioneering designs and the interdisciplinary goal of holistically penetrating all areas of life, the Wiener Werkstätte left a lasting mark on the history of design.

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It was the aim of the Werkstätte to renew the art term in the field of applied arts and to embellish the life by everyday objects designed by artists. Following British examples, the challenge was to offer simple, elegant unique items in reply to the uncharitable and industrial replicas of past styles. A tea pot and a wardrobe were designed with just the same diligence and idealism.

Everyday objects thus were elevated to an art object. All spheres of life should be designed homogenously and do justice to a modern culture.

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Products made in Weiner
Products made in Weiner Werkstätte, J. Hoffmann

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In architectural commissions such as the Purkersdorf Sanatorium and the Palais Stoclet in Brussels, the Wiener Werkstätte was able to realize its ideal of the Gesamtkunstwerk (total artwork), a coordinated environment in which everything down to the last detail was consciously designed as an integral part of the whole project.

For a time the products of the Wiener Werkstätte enjoyed tremendous commercial success, which led to the establishment of sales outlets in Karlsbad, Marienbad, Zurich, New York and Berlin.

Many of the best-known artists and architects of this period created works for the Werkstätte, including names such as Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele, Josef Hoffmann, Dagobert Peche, Otto Prutscher, Koloman Moser, Ernst Lichtblau and Josef Frank.

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