Portrait of Mäda Primavesi
Measures: 149,9 x 110,5 cm
Technique: Oil on canvas
Depository: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Mäda Primavesi was the daughter of the banker and industrialist Otto Primavesi, one of the financial backers of the Wiener Werkstätte, and the actress Eugenia Primavesi (born Butschek), whom Klimt painted in 1913. A series of preliminary pencil sketches for Mäda's portrait, now in public and private collections, show that the composition evolved as the artist experimented with alternative poses and background motifs.
Established in 1903, the Wiener Werkstätte (engl.: Vienna Workshop) was a production community of visual artists. The workshop brought together architects, artists and designers whose first commitment was to design art which would be accessible to everyone. The work most representative of the Wiener Werkstätte is probably the Stoclet Palace in Brussels. Wiener Werkstätte was established in 1903, as a production community of architects, artists and designers whose first commitment was to design art which would be accessible to everyone. The enterprise evolved from the Vienna Secession, founded in 1897 as a progressive alliance of artists and designers. From the start, the Secession had placed special emphasis on the applied arts, and its 1900 exhibition surveying the work of contemporary European design workshops prompted the young architect Josef Hoffmann and his artist friend Koloman Moser to consider establishing a similar enterprise. Finally in 1903, with backing from the industrialist Fritz Wärndorfer, the Wiener Werkstätte began operations in three small rooms, it soon expanded to fill a three-story building with separate, specially designed facilities for metalwork, leatherwork, bookbinding, woodworking and a paint shop. The undertaking had a clear aim: to make all facets of human life into one unified work of art. This began with the creation of extraordinarily advanced working conditions for the craftsmen, and it ended with the wish to create everything entirely anew for everyday practical use or decoration. It was also decided to approve objects of outstanding individuality and beauty, and with emphasis on fine craftsmanship. This followed the organisation's motto: "Better to work 10 days on one product than to manufacture 10 products in one day." The seat of the venture was in Neustiftgasse 32-34, where a new building was adapted to their requirements, the project eventually exhausted Wärndorfer's fortune. The enthusiasm with which the key figures threw themselves into exhibitions and fairs. With the encouragement of a well-wishing press the Wiener Werkstatte quickly gained an excellent and widespread reputation. The duo Hoffmann and Moser complemented each other so well, that for a time it was impossible to differentiate between their designs. The circle of customers of the Wiener Werkstatte and Josef Hoffmann's mainly consisted of artists and the open-minded, progressive and financially well-to-do Jewish upper middle class supporters of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Most of the objects produced in the Wiener Werkstatte were stamped with a number of different marks; the trademark of the Wiener Werkstatte, the monogram of the designer and that of the craftsman, who created it. The Wiener Werkstatte had about 100 employees in 1905, of whom 37 were masters of their trade. Branches were opened in; Karlsbad 1909, Marienbad, Zürich 1916/17, New York 1922, Berlin 1929. The Wiener Werkstätte's first years were heady times, during which the collaboration between Hoffmann and Moser reached its peak. The two artists created a geometric style whose functional simplicity anticipates later modernism and has influenced the work of many of today's leading designers and architects. Josef Hoffmann's significance as an early industrial designer for bentwood furniture can hardly be overestimated. He designed a furniture line noted for its simple forms and timeless elegance for the firm of Jacob & Josef Kohn. In architectural commissions such as the Purkersdorf Sanatorium and the lavish 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 teaspoon was consciously designed as an integral part of the whole project. For several years, beginning in 1904, the Wiener Werkstätte had its own carpentry workshop. But only few pieces of furniture were made there. Most of the furniture known as Wiener Werkstätte Furniture were made by such excellent cabinet-makers as: Portois & Fix, Johann Soulek, Anton Herrgesell, Anton Pospisil, Friedrich Otto Schmidt and Johann Niedermoser. Some historians now believe that there are no existing original products of the Wiener Werkstätte Furniture division. From 1905, the Wiener Werkstatte produced handpainted and printed silks. The Backhausen firm was responsible for the machine-printed and woven textiles. It was during this period that Berthold Löffler and Carl Otto Czeschka, who both became associated with the Werkstätte and brought with them a renewed interest in figuration that had direct bearing on the early work of the Expressionist Oskar Kokoschka. The range of product lines also included; leather goods, enamel, jewellery, postcards and ceramics. The Wiener Werkstätte even had a millinery department. In 1907, the Wiener Werkstätte took over distribution for the Wiener Keramik, a ceramics workshop of kindred spirit headed by Michael Powolny and Berthold Löffler. And in the same year Moser, embittered by the financial squabbling, left the Wiener Werkstätte, which subsequently entered a new phase, both stylistically and economically. The founding of textile and fashion divisions in 1909 and 1910 brought a further shift in the Wiener Werkstätte's emphasis—away from the architectural and toward the ephemeral. After a close brush with bankruptcy in 1913, Wärndorfer was shipped off to America and the following year Otto Primavesi, a banker from Moravia, took over as chief financier and patron. The need for a perennial Milchkuh (cash cow) to provide a steady cash flow is often cited as symptomatic of the Wiener Werkstätte's economic naiveté, but in fact, the notion of an enlightened patron was central to the Werkstätte's operating philosophy. During and immediately following the First World War the Wiener Werkstatte was influenced by a new generation of artists and craftsmen. It was Dagobert Peche whose ornamental, almost baroque fancies exerted the most palpable influence. After the war, material shortages encouraged experimentation with less durable, less expensive materials such as wood, ceramics and papier-mâché. The original, grand Gesamtkunstwerk vision became diluted and submerged by the Kunstgewerbliches—the artsy-craftsy. The complete impoverishment of the truncated Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I, undoubtedly played a significant role in the demise of the Wiener Werkstätte. Attempts to expand the workshop's scope—adding such items as wallpaper to its limited program of industrial licenses, and establishing branches in Berlin, New York and Zurich—were not particularly successful. The Werkstätte recognized early on that its role was not to reach the masses, but rather to create a rarefied environment for the wealthy few. So long as the Austro-Hungarian empire survived, whole and thriving, this goal was not particularly unrealistic. The Werkstätte's financial situation grew desperate due to the effects of the war and the onset of the world wide Depression in 1929. The situation was exacerbated by the rise of the Nazi party in the German Reichstag elections of September 1930 when the Nazis won 18.3% of the vote, and became the second-largest party in the Reichstag. On 20 July 1932, the Prussian government was ousted by a coup, known as the Preussenschlag, and a few days later at the July 1932 Reichstag election the Nazis polled 37.4 % of the vote and thus become, by a wide margin, the largest party in the Reichstag. Thereafter, the Nazi party's influence grew and the negative pressure the party brought to bear on the clients and supporters of the Werkstätte resulted in the liquidation of all of its assets the same year.
Artists of the Wiener Werkstaette
Architecture, interior design and furniture
Works designed by Josef Hoffmann, Mathilde Flögl, Carl Witzmann, Carl Breuer, Gustav Siegel, Emanuel Josef Margold, Koloman Moser, Dagobert Peche, Josef Urban, Otto Prutscher, Richard Luksch, Oswald Haerdtl, Phillipp Häusler, Carl Otto Czeschka :de:Carl Otto Czeschka and Victor Lurje. Although not part of the Wiener Werkstätte, the German-born artist and architect Winold Reiss was influenced especially by the work of Josef Hoffmann.
Works designed by Karl Hagenauer, Josef Hoffmann, Berthold Löffler, Franz Metzner, Koloman Moser, Dagobert Peche, Otto Prutscher, Max Snischeck, Josef Urban and Julius Zimpel.
Works designed by Gudrun Baudisch, Josef Hoffmann, Hilda Jesser, Dina Kühn, Berthold Löffler, Dagobert Peche, Richard Luksch, Jutta Sika, Susi Singer and Vally Wieselthier.
Works designed by Josef Hoffmann, Robert Holubetz, Hilda Jesser, Koloman Moser, Dagobert Peche, Michael Powolny, Otto Prutscher, Gertrud Weinberger and Julius Zimpel.
Wood and mixed media
Works designed by Josef Hoffmann, Fritzi Löw, Dagobert Peche and Vally Wieselthier.
Fashion, jewelry and accessories
Works designed by Lotte Calm, Christa Ehrlich, Trude Hochmann, Josef Hoffmann, Mela Köhler, Maria Likarz, Berthold Löffler, Fritzi Löw, Koloman Moser, Dagobert Peche, Reni Schaschl, Agnes ("Kitty") Speyer, Amalie Szeps and Eduard Josef Wimmer-Wisgrill.
Works designed by Mathilde Flögl, Lotte Föchler-Frömmel, Josef Hoffmann, Hilda Jesser, Ludwig Heinrich, Maria Likarz, Rita Luzzatte, Koloman Moser, Dagobert Peche, Kitty Rix, Max Snischek and Franz von Zülow.
Typography and the graphic arts
Works designed by Carl Otto Czeschka :de:Carl Otto Czeschka, Josef Diveky, Anton Faistauer, Remigius Geyling, Heddi Hirsch, Emil Hoppe, Ludwig Heinrich Jungnickel, Rudolf Kalvach, Hans Kalmsteiner, Mela Köhler, Oskar Kokoschka, Rudolf von Larisch, Maria Likarz, Berthold Löffler, Moritz Jung, Editha Moser, Koloman Moser, Dagobert Peche, Kitty Rix, Alfred Roller, Egon Schiele, Ver Sacrum (magazine)|Ver Sacrum; Beethoven exhibition catalogue and "Kachelalmanach".
Works by Heddi Hirsch, Josef Hoffmann, Ludwig Heinrich Jungnickel, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Max Kurzweil, Berthold Löffler, Koloman Moser, Emil Orlik and Egon Schiele. The Wiener Werkstaette also was active as an agent or merchand middleman with products of: Wiener Keramik, Eduard Klablena, Kaulitz, Bachmann, Cloeter, Lobmeyr, Meyr's Neffe, Moser-Karlsbad, Oertel, Schappel, Loetz Witwe, Tiroler Glashütte, Pfeiffer & Löwenstein, Böcke, Kaiser, Petzold, Berger, Rosenbaum, Schmidt, Backhausen, Portois & Fix, Johann Soulek (Palais Stoclet, Haus Ast) , Anton Herrgesell, Anton Pospisil, Friedrich Otto Schmidt, Johann Niedermoser, Anton Ziprosch und Franz Gloser (Purkersdorf). Important members of this workshop were the painter Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Emilie Flöge, Max Lenz, Wilhelm Lizst, Emil Orlik, Dagobert Peche, Eduard Wimmer Wisgrill, Leopold Bauer, Oskar Kokoschka, Vally Wieselthier, Otto Prutscher, Emanuel Margold, Hans Ofner, Carl Otto Czeschka :de:Carl Otto Czeschka, Michael Powolny, Carl Moll and Maria Likarz.