Pair of candelabra with stylized animal figures, Karl Hagenauer, Werkstatte Hagenauer Vienna, circa 1928, brass, marked
The candelabra belong to the very early objects from the Hagenauer workshop. They are already shown in the sales catalog from 1928 where they appear marked with an old model number. Since they are not branded with the typical signet “wHw” in a circle, we can date them as early as around 1920.
The candelabra are made of solid brass. Massive foot elements support the decoratively twisted and fluted arms, which are crowned by a stylized animal figure.
The influence of the Wiener Werkstatte echoes in the formal language of these objects. In particular, the mythical creature and the flower-like spouts are reminiscent of the imaginative ornamentation of Dagobert Peche. The harmonious symmetry in the two feet, arms and the two candle holders already anticipate Art Deco design.
Details such as the hand-drawn candlesticks, finely channeled drip guards and feet, testify to the high quality in the execution.
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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