Joseph Maria Olbrich was a leading architect of the Austrian Art Nouveau and one of the founders of the Vienna Secession.
About his life
Born in Opava, in Austrian Silesia (now part of the Czech Republic), Joseph Maria Olbrich studied architecture at the Wiener Staatsgewerbeschule and afterward at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna under Otto Wagner.
Along with Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffmann, Otto Wagner, and Gustav Klimt, Olbrich was a founding member of the “Viennese Secession” (1897), a group of dissenting artists who split off in protest against the academy art scene as other late 19th-century secessionist artists had already done in Berlin (1892) and Munich (1893).
About his style
Influenced by the Viennese architect Otto Wagner (1841-1918), Olbrich was also associated with Art Nouveau, known in Austria as Sezessionstil or by its German name of Jugendstil, and was involved in the decorative design which is promoted. But he managed to overcome the weaknesses and limitations of Art Nouveau architecture, combining its fantastic appearance with spatial and distribution functionality.
Thus, like Victor Horta (1861-1947) in Belgium, Hector Guimard (1867-1942) in France, and Antoni Gaudì (1852-1926) in Spain, Olbrich acted as a bridge between 19th-century architecture and the advent of full-blooded modernism in the hands of Le Corbusier (1887-1965), Walter Gropius (1883-1969) and the Bauhaus design school (1919-33).
What are his major works?
- “House of the Secession” in Vienna (1898-1999). Josef Maria Olbrich designed the building for the Secession exhibitions, which was his first large-scale project. It is notable for its blocky simplicity, but the metal dome is decorated with Art Nouveau floral ornaments.
- The Hochzeitsturm (1907; Tower of the Wedding) in Darmstadt, which had rounded toe-shaped roof overhangs reminiscent of Art Nouveau, but also had sashes that marked a distinctly modern trend.
- House at Cologne-Marienburg (1908–09) and a department store in Düsseldorf (designed in 1906 and completed after his death).
Darmstadt artists’ colony
A colony of artists originated in Darmstadt around 1900 with the support of the Grand Duke of Hesse Ernst Ludwig von Hesse. He tried to implement this Crafts Guild idea, which was pursued by Victorians such as Ruskin and Morris, creating a village studio that included studio apartments, a workshop school, and his residence. The goal of the colony was to contribute to the economic growth of the region through the presence of the most important German-speaking artists, whose work is presented to the public in a series of exhibitions. Olbrich designed six houses here, as well as a central meeting and study hall, which bears witness to the influence of Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
- Ernesto Luigi’s house was built in the form of a common atelier following the projects drawn up by Joseph Maria Olbrich. Olbrich had worked as an architect and was the central figure of the artistic cenacle, while Peter Behrens had been involved only as a painter and illustrator.
- Wilhelm Deiters House;
- The large Glückert house;
- The small Glückert house (Rudolf Bosselt’s house);
- House of Joseph Maria Olbrich;
- Ludwig Habich’s House;
- Hans Christiansen House