Female bust, Karl Hagenauer, Werkstatte Hagenauer Vienna, ca. 1930, brass patinated, marked
The bust, marked with “Karl”, is an outstanding example of Art Déco statuettes. With her head turned slightly back over the shoulder, the young lady offers a generous view of her upper body. A light shawl, frivolously drapped, hints at her décolleté and thus emphasizes the coquettish depiction. With female nudes and busts like these, Karl Hagenauer created figurines of stunning charisma, in a variety of techniques.
Karl Hagenauer shows a clearly defined structure in this cast bust. The upper body is depicted en face and the head in profile. The long moving curls cover the left side of the head and give the figure a particularly expressive dynamic. An exciting tension between the coquetry and the modesty becomes noticeable and leaves room for interpretation.
Karl Hagenauer (1898 – 1956) was an Austrian metal artist and designer who, together with his brother Franz, ran the Werkstatte Hagenauer Wien. Together they wrote Austrian design history with their utility and decorative objects made of metal and wood. In the metalworking business of his father Carl (1872-1928), Karl Hagenauer had the opportunity to learn the artisan side of the girdler's trade at an early age. He received his training at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts under Franz Cizek, Oskar Strnad and Josef Hoffmann. Interrupted by his military service in World War I, he finished his studies in 1920. Following Josef Hoffmann's initiative, he then provided designs for the Wiener Werkstatte. Especially in this early phase, the influence of his teachers, in particular the ornamental and playful form language of Dagobert Peche is clearly distinguishable. Soon a stylistic change became apparent in Karl Hagenauer's work: pure ornamentation was pushed into the background, reduced forms became more dominant. Especially in the figural segment, he now developed his own distinctive style with altered proportions and elongated limbs. He also gave preference to less noble metals such as brass, alpaca and copper over the materials he had previously used, such as silver and ivory. What did not change, however, was the high quality of the objects' craftsmanship. Fine examples of this are his designs for lamp stands in the form of highly stylized female nudes or the well-known dancer figurine of Josephine Baker from the late 1920s*. The Hagenauer workshop also successfully marketed exotic African dancer statuettes as well as whimsical animal figures made of wood. Due to the economic conditions of the interwar period and the Second World War, the Hagenauer workshop at times produced mainly simple but nevertheless high-quality utilitarian or decorative objects made of metal or wood. The authorship of many of these designs can no longer be attributed to either Karl or Franz Hagenauer specifically. Karl Hagenauer died in 1956 and subsequently Franz Hagenauer continued to run the workshop until the 1980s. * cf. Olga Kronsteiner, Monika Wenzl-Bachmeier (ed.), Hagenauer – Viennese Modernism and New Realism, exhibition catalogue Wagner:Werk Postsparkasse, Vienna 2011, p. 38 and p. 67
Werkstätte Hagenauer – stylistic evolution and importance
Today, the Werkstatte Hagenauer is rightfully among the most important Austrian Arts & Crafts manufacturers of the 20th century. The clear, strict formal language combined with dynamic poses and the usage of brass, nickel-plated, patinated or bare, along with copper, alpaca and exotic wood shows a high level of recognition.
However, it took the siblings Karl and Franz Hagenauer quite some time until they developed their own unique style. Karl and Franz both attended the Vienna School of Arts & Crafts and studied under Josef Hoffmann, Oskar Strnad, Anton Hanak and Dagobert Peche.
Until the closure of the Werkstatte Hagenauer on December 30, 1987, art objects of outstanding quality were still being produced. The siblings Karl and Franz Hagenauer strongly contributed in coining the term „design“ through their legacy and are surely among the most influential Austrian artists of the 20th century.
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