Compared to other materials, brass was easy to clean and, above all, had a much lower purchase price. The Werkstatte Hagenauer achieved a much broader clientele through a great many brass products.
In comparison, the Wiener Werkstatte came under increasing criticism, especially after the First World War. The philosophy of the Wiener Werkstatte, its exclusivity, and the target group of the rich and big industrialists seemed outdated. Especially in the post-war period, when society and politics were undergoing major changes throughout Europe and America. Critics of the Vienna Art Show of 1920 described the Wiener Werkstatte as outmoded and not adapted to the changed political and social conditions.
The Wiener Werkstatte was blamed for still depending on decoration and ornament. They were criticised in 1925 by the contemporary critic Armand Weiser for being ‘one for the display of excess and luxury’.
This contrasted with the Werkstatte Hagenauer, which greatly reduced ornamentation. Their creations did not get lost in ornamentation. This was to the advantage of the Werkstatte Hagenauer. They were praised as pioneering. They fulfilled the changing artistic and social requirements of the time.
A very fitting example of this was a mirror titled: ‘Dog, Cat, Mouse’ which was designed around 1930. The mirror frame shows an exciting chase of the three animals. With an exceptionally fine sense of humour, Karl Hagenauer designed such witty episodes, which charmingly decorated some of his objects. The comic-like and reduced details showed Karl Hagenauer’s mastery of stylistic reduction, for which the Werkstatte Hagenauer was to become famous.
Another aspect that benefited the Hagenauer workshop was the flexible price range in which the objects were offered. There were works of art and objects for everyone to buy. For four shillings, you could buy a beautiful ashtray. For 18 shillings, an elegant bookend. But there were also objects like a magnificent chandelier for 320 shillings or a large floor lamp for 600 shillings.
Critics were continuously fascinated by the pieces of the Werkstatte Hagenauer. Weiser, for example, wrote the following in a 1925 issue of Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration: “Each of their pieces is of consummate workmanship and reproduces all the merits of an easily mastered technique in form and colour. By hammering out and leaf-like trimming of the curved edges, silhouetting is repeatedly achieved.“
As this report showed, the execution of a design and the skill that goes with it is of extraordinary importance. It was the quality of craftsmanship that was very inspiring. These technical and work-related backgrounds were also important aspects of exhibitions. At the Paris World Exhibition of 1925, the Hagenauer workshop was represented with designs by Karl. His objects were awarded medals for their technique and craftsmanship.
The 1920s were a time of economic boom, and this was also reflected in the Werkstatte Hagenauer. Bowls, cans, and various utilitarian objects such as inkwells, writing sets, candlesticks, table and floor lamps, or mirrors were produced in large numbers.
In these years, Karl Hagenauer orientated himself towards ornamental and formal styles. Here he followed the trend set by the Wiener Werkstatte, Josef Hoffmann or Dagobert Peche. At the same time, however, he also created objects that have the typical recognition value of today’s well known Werkstatte Hagenauer : Geometric contours and pure forms are dominating, whereas functionless ornaments began to disappear.
One such example, which could be described as a transitional work, is an ornamental wall mirror, from around 1928. It is the design of a decorative mirror. The frame is decorated with geometric elements and stylised animal figures in an openwork technique. Between the reduced floral and geometric ornaments, a dog, a heron, and a bird are clearly visible. Their soft lines lighten up the strict composition of the frame.
The formal language is strongly reminiscent of the influence of the Wiener Werkstatte. Especially when it comes to depictions of animals, one recognizes the imaginative ornamentation that was very much the style of Dagobert Peche. At the same time, however, there is a clear development towards reduction in figures and ornamentation. A style that was to become characteristic of the name Hagenauer and would later stand for the Werkstatte.
This direction was also particularly evident in some vases, jars, and bowls. In particular, larger animal figures, which were of course limited to decorative purposes, left many decorations in their appearance behind. A playful elegance, enhanced by form and little decoration, became characteristic under Karl Hagenauer’s leadership and reflected the changing times.
But it was especially the materials that reflected the historical period in the Werkstatte Hagenauer. Alpaca, copper, and above all, brass was among the materials predominantly used. Brass products were particularly popular. The ornamental wall mirror mentioned above is also made of brass.
There were also different processing methods for this material. On the one hand, there were chased brass plates or chiselled objects, and on the other hand, there was the sand-casting process. Here, the objects were subsequently polished to a high gloss.
Like his older brother Karl, Franz Hagenauer attended Franz Cizek’s highly sought-after youth art course in Vienna. When he began his regular studies, he had a clear idea of his future. Early on, he knew exactly what he wanted. On the application form under career aspirations, he wrote: Sculptor.
But it was still a long way until then and Franz Hagenauer had to overcome some hurdles. Franz was influenced by the Czech cubists, who often worked formally with prisms and pyramid vocabulary. Other influences during his student years were expressionism and kinetic art. During that time Franz worked a lot on plaster cuts, ceramics and chasing works. However, he was initially given only a “Satisfactory” grade by Cizek during his time at school.
But his first great success was not far off. Further training followed under the sculptor Anton Hanak in Vienna. And in the school year 1922/ 23 he received a prize of one million crowns (today about 670 euros) from the Wiener Werkstätte in a competition for a brilliantly crafted sheet metal sculpture.
In his last year at school, he also took a course in belt-making, repoussé and chasing with Josef Hoffmann. Since Hoffmann immediately recognized his talent, he was not only taught by him but was also allowed to work for him. This was a great honor for the young sculptor. However, he attended this course for only a few weeks, as he was released from work for the Paris World Exhibition of 1925. For now, he had finished with his studies. After difficult beginnings, success and requests for work came flooding in. Nothing stood in the way of his dream of becoming a professional sculptor.
In the same year, however, Franz Hagenauer suffered a minor setback. An article about the Hagenauer workshop appeared in the trade magazine ‘Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration’, in which sheet metal sculptures by Franz were strongly criticized.
But this was immediately followed by praise for the exhibits at the Paris World Exhibition. Together with other students of Hanak, a “Room of Metals” was presented in Paris. This was described by critics as a sheet metal workshop, praised as a “cult room”, and was lauded as an example of passion of a professional way of working.
Success at the World Exhibition was followed by a period of work and further study for Franz. In the late 20’s Franz began working in the family business. There is uncertainty when exactly he began working at the Hagenauer workshop, as only a few pieces were explicitly signed with his signature mark. Moreover, while working for the family, he did not lose sight of his goal to become a sculptor. In 1928, he officially began training in the belt-making trade. This is why works by Franz Hagenauer for the Hagenauer Werkstätte from the late 1920s are very special.
One of these pieces of work from that time (around 1927 to 1930) is also currently offered in the Nikolaus Kolhammer Gallery. It is a brass bowl, cast brass, wrought, and chased. Figures in long robes are depicted. Their gestures, praying and praising, indicate Christian saints. On some of these figures, halos can also be seen. However, other figures are not to be overlooked in the bowl. One of them, for example, is a rider on horseback, which could also be the image of a Christian saint.
Floral elements, which are geometrically arranged, and stylized animals connect the different episodes of the sacred figures. It is fascinating how religious with more profane motifs are related to each other here. Benedictory figures, courtly horsemen, animals, and floral elements are combined to create a stylish overall image of an excellently crafted brass bowl.
The inspiration for this bowl by Franz Hagenauer can be traced back to work for the 1925 Paris World Exhibition. As mentioned earlier, Franz exhibited pieces with other students of Franz Hanak in the “cult room”. Many of those works show patterns similar to the brass bowl, combining sacred scenes with secular motifs.
This brass bowl is an excellent testimony of a young, promising artist who, after hard work and minor setbacks, continued to focus on his goal and was able to apply what he had learned. The bowl is a testimony that Franz Hagenauer became a great sculptor.
Loetz vases have a long tradition that has changed many times since the 19th century, and the glass art itself has an even longer history. Back in ancient Egypt, over 3000 years ago, glassblowers made vases that are not dissimilar to the Loetz vases of today. The ancient Egyptians produced glass and glass vases from quartz mixed with plant ash in furnaces. Most of these glass vases were made in blue, the color of the Nile, the life source of the Egyptians. However, the glassblowers also succeeded in the difficult production of red glass. Here the glass had to be fired in an environment without oxygen so that the copper did not oxidize and turn blue. The production of red and blue glass was a sacred art among the Egyptians. The recipe of glass production was also known as “the secret of the pharaohs”. And, as the name suggests, glass vases and glass jewelry were reserved exclusively for the pharaohs.
Just as ideas, themes and motifs from nature were adopted in the production of Loetz vases, such as the shape of flower calyxes or the patterns of blossoms and plant leaves, so too did the ancient Egyptians adopt forms from nature in their glass vases. At that time, however, the patterns had a closer resemblance to leaves, were less colorful and were kept in the colors beige, yellow or brown. But the basic idea of the Egyptians was the same as that of many glass artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Shapes and colors from nature were adopted and captured in glass art.
In the 19th century, historicism was predominant in glass art and Loetz was also dominated by historicism at first. It was not until much later that those simpler forms, inspired by nature, would prevail. In 1879 Susanne, Johann Loetz’s widow, handed over the company to her grandson, Maximilian von Spaun. Together with Eduard Prochaska, he modernized the company and introduced innovations and new techniques to the glass art of historicism. For example, intarsia glass, octopus glass or the very popular marbled glass, which imitated the appearance of precious stones.
Successes and prizes followed in Brussels, Munich and Vienna, as well as at the World Exhibition in Paris, the Exposition Universelle, in 1889. However, the great success did not come. And to this day the Loetz glass vases from the period of historicism are less in demand and are also traded as less valuable.
It was in 1897 when Maximilian von Spaun first admired Tiffany Favrile glass in Bohemia and Vienna. Its great success did not go unnoticed by him and he decided that the Art Nouveau style was the direction in which Loetz glass should also develop to.
The next years, until the turn of the century, were to be Loetz’s most successful and artistically exciting years. The glass factory produced a new generation of glass vases. The inspiration for the vases was to be found in nature itself. Vases like calyxes, implied petals, or meandering shapes like rivers decorated the iridescent colored glass. Fanciful vases, many shimmering like opal, were created at that time.
With the new style Loetz also collaborated with very famous artists, such as Josef Hoffmann, Koloman Moser, the Wiener Werkstätte or Franz Hofstötter. All of them created designs and sketches for Loetz vases. The highlight of this collaboration was in 1900 when Loetz made history at the Paris World Exhibition. Along with Tiffany, Gallé, Daum and Lobmeyr, Loetz won the Grand Prix. The company received the award for the Phenomenon Series, created in collaboration with Hofstötter.
In the Nikolaus Kolhammer Art Gallery, a Loetz vase, designed by Franz Hofstötter for that very Paris World Exhibition in 1900, was also offered and sold recently. It is the Exhibition Phenomenon Genre 387 ,,Pink with Silver”. This vase is a typical example of Hofstötter’s designs, as the surface design is inspired by nature. All the elements, earth, air and fire, which must be united to create iridescent glass, are represented in the vase. The base of the vase, in dark brown, is held in the color of fertile earth. This is followed by woven, flowing threads in silver and light blue that meander along the vase. They are interpreted as air and atmosphere, which are followed by more orange and pink threads that can be seen on the vase like fire itself, giving it an almost glowing impression.
In the middle of the 19th century, Emperor Franz Josef I ordered the bastions of the first district to be dismantled to build the magnificent Ringstrasse. From 1858 to 1874 Vienna was a huge construction site and during that time the world-famous buildings of today’s Vienna Ringstrasse were built, including the museums, the theatres or the City Hall.
It was a time of prosperity and all these new projects offered artists and craftsmen many opportunities for work. The Viennese arts and crafts experienced an unprecedented heyday. There was also a technical breakthrough in bronze casting. The costly lost-wax casting process was replaced by the sand-casting process. This meant that the casting mold remained intact and a figure could be recast indefinitely. The economy flourished and from then on bronze and iron objects could be mass produced on an industrial level. The rising and increasingly wealthy middle classes were paying customers.
Almost at the same time, Carl Hagenauer began his apprenticeship at the Viennese silverware factory Würbel & Czokally. He received a classical education in historically oriented designs, especially the Renaissance. The silverware factory specialized in “decorative art objects” such as centerpieces, bowls and cups.
After completing his apprenticeship with the master goldsmith Bernauer Samu in Bratislava, he not only founded his first workshop in the economic center, but also a family.
A few years later, however, he and his family were drawn back to Vienna, where he opened his own workshop at Zieglergasse 39. The clientele in Vienna and the opportunities that unfolded at the turn of the century were simply more abundant in the capital.
At first, he designed classical Viennese bronze ware based on models from antiquity, the Renaissance and the Baroque. It was everything that corresponded to the taste of the time.
But with the advent of Jugendstil in Vienna, Carl Hagenauer found his true passion. Asymmetrical design and flowing lines, the characteristic elements of Jugendstil, found their way into his craft. From then on, Carl Hagenauer produced bronze figures, reliefs and lamps in this increasingly popular art movement. Not only in Vienna, but throughout Europe he became one of the most sought-after artists in the metal-working arts and crafts scene.
Carl Hagenauer enabled his children to build on his success and provided them with the best possible education. His son, Karl, was enrolled in the School of Applied Arts. There he attended Franz Cizek’s popular youth art course. In 1912 Karl began his regular studies in architecture and was taught by masters such as Josef Hoffmann. But in 1916, like all young men in Europe, Karl too, could not outrun his fate. He was drafted into the military, but quickly found himself in Italian captivity, and when he returned to Vienna in 1919, he was able to finish his studies.
After successfully completing his studies, Hoffmann commissioned his former student to create objects for the Wiener Werkstatte. He designed a large number of ivory objects, which were made by a carver in Hagenauer’s workshop. Due to their ornamental density and style, the resulting creations were very reminiscent of Dagobert Peches and were also erroneously attributed to him for some time.
The product range of the Hagenauer workshop grew rapidly in the 1920s. In addition to tin boxes, bowls or writing sets, candlesticks, table and floor lamps were now also produced and sold. Among them are a pair of candlesticks, which are currently on sale in the Nikolaus Kolhammers Gallery. In 1928 they appeared in the sales catalog, but since they are not yet marked with the typical company signet ,,wHw” in a circle, they could be dated to 1920.
The pair of candlesticks, made of solid brass, are an excellent example of what Karl Hagenauer oriented himself by in the period after the First World War. Geometric patterns and the curved shape of the candlesticks go hand in hand with the ornaments. Those stylized animal figures and the flower-like designed spouts are reminiscent of the works of Dagobert Peches. In the formal language, the influence of the Wiener Werkstatte is clear.
At the same time, however, geometric contours are already asserting themselves in this work. Moreover, the pure form of the candlesticks begins to dominate over the functionless ornament. Here, the animal figures are entirely decoration, yet they appear elegant and playful, in harmony with the pair of candlesticks. The uniformity of the feet and arms already indicate early Art Deco design, they are a wonderful example of Karl Hagenauer’s early style.