japonisme: mackintosh & vienna

22 November 2007

mackintosh & vienna

i began to notice the similarities between the scottish designs, metalwork, glass, and of course embroidery, and that of the wiener werkstatte. this is not coincidental, as it turns out.

In 1900 Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his group "The Glasgow Four" were invited to show their work at the VIIIth exhibition of the Viennese Secession. Their designs, especially those of Charles Rennie Macintosh, exerted a profound influence on German and Austrian exponents of Jugendstil. Contact with Charles Rennie Mackintosh was crucial for Josef Maria Olbrich, Josef Hoffmann, and Koloman Moser in particular. 1

mackintosh's design, with its nature-based simplicity and breakdown of the separation between art and craft (both things clearly influenced by the influx of japanese arts and crafts), was more appealing to the viennese than was the art nouveau they saw in france and belgium, which they saw as excessive. they, unlike mackintosh's fellow glaswegians, saw him as a genius.

Influenced and encouraged by ... Mackintosh, Hoffmann and Moser realized their dream of founding a workshop for the applied arts to promote the best in design matched by the finest in craftsmanship. In June 1903 the Wiener Werkstätte was established; it "represented a not-previously achieved international high point in the applied arts, and, with its unmatched fine workmanship and exquisite taste, became the educator of the whole civilized world." 2

The Wiener Werkstätte believed that artistic endeavour should permeate all aspects of everyday life; no object was so menial that it could not be enhanced by beauty of form and execution ... [When] Mackintosh and [his wife] Margaret Macdonald had exhibited their work to the Viennese public, Hoffmann and Moser were intrigued with the elegance and sensibility of their creations, which is evident in the puristic simplicity and geometric austerity of their early objects.

The Japanese-inspired components of the workshops’ products were also important. The Secession had dedicated their sixth exhibition (1900) to Japanese art, and in Vienna in 1901 the Österreichisches Museum für Kunst und Industrie (now Österreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst) exhibited the woodcuts of Katsushika Hokusai. The textile patterns and inlay designs of Hoffmann and Moser share strong similarities with Japanese stencils and prints.

The distinctive trademark of the Wiener Werkstätte included the initials of both the designer and the executing craftsworker. The fine arts and the applied arts were awarded the same level of importance. The primary concern of the group was to respect the inherent decorative and functional qualities of the material used and to work within its natural properties. © Oxford University Press 2007

The story began with a competition launched in December 1900 by Zeitschrift FürInnen- dekoration, an innovative design magazine published in the German city of Darmstadt. European architects were invited to design an Art Lover's House. Mackintosh sent in his entry in March 1901, his one chance to design a house unfettered by financial constraints or a conservative client. But he was disqualified for failing to include the required number of drawings of the interior. He hastily completed the portfolio, which he then resubmitted. Delighted with the designs, the judges awarded Mackintosh a special prize (there was no outright winner).

Publication of these drawings did much to establish Mackintosh's reputation abroad as an original and distinctive architect, particularly in Austria and Germany. The Art Lover's House is an important twentieth-century building because it anticipates the abstract forms of Modernism. At first glance it could be an illustration from the thirties. Artists of the avant-garde Vienna Secession described Mackintosh as “our leader who showed us the way” – an acclaim that he was never able to gain at home. Rich Glasgow businessmen never quite took him seriously. 3

in france, poiret (dufy) and lalique were later to feel the influence of this style, but were, of course, french.

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Blogger belvedere beads said...

thankyou for sending the raven photo, it's quite remarkable how similar they are, but i would never use someone else's photo without crediting them.

lili, i have a question for you, have you ever done an entry on the schwestern floge - emile floge and her sister? i am very interested in the clothes they made for their shop but have had very little success trying to find images of their couture. you seem to have the most amazing library maybe you have pictures of their creations?

25 November, 2007 07:42  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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