Vienna Workshop Wiener Werkstatte Term Paper

Pages: 13 (3692 words)  ·  Style: Chicago  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

Wiener Werkstatte

The Gesamtkunstwerk in the Wiener Werkstatte

The idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk, or "total, integrated work of art," was developed by Richard Wagner to describe what he was trying to do with his opera - that is, blend all of the arts together into a single, unified whole. Artists belonging to the Wiener Werkstatte, inspired by the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk, took this concept as their ultimate artistic goal. While in the end, due largely to funding problems, the Wiener Werkstatte failed, it nonetheless left an indelible mark on the artistic accomplishments of the Weimar era in Central Europe. In what follows, I will discuss the accomplishments as well as the shortcomings of the Wiener Werkstatte in an effort to determine to what extent the artists and craftsmen associated with this movement were able to attain the heights of the Gesamtkunstwerk.

The beginnings of the Wiener Werkstatte

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History teaches us that artists tend to view their work as an integrated part of everyday life. In regard to the Vienna Academy of the early 20th century, however, art merely served as an esoteric entity. Motivated primarily by commercial means, the Kunstlerhaus sought to limit the influence of foreign artists, maintaining an exclusionary "country club" attitude towards the mass majority. However, innovative thoughts and practices encouraged the spread of art to accommodate the majority as well as the minority. In the Vienna of 1900, art sought to unite the outsiders with the insiders, providing access to otherwise impenetrable aristocratic circles. Tension and clashes between tradition and innovation resulted in the rise of retaliating movements. In 1897, forty artistic rebels founded the Vienna Secession with Gustav Klimt as president. The common goal involved establishing an art that does not discriminate, whether for richer or for poorer. Represented by artists such as Giovanni Segantini, Ferdinand Khnopff, and Max Klinger, the Vienna Secession later led to the establishment of the Wiener Werkstatte in 1903.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Vienna Workshop Wiener Werkstatte Assignment

Founded by Josef Hoffman, Koloman Moser and Fritz Warndorfer, the concept of the Wiener Werkstatte is said to have originated in coffeehouse discussions amongst the three protagonists. As early as 1899, a groundwork or blueprint had been laid. The foundation of the Wiener Werkstatte called for a unity between art and craftsmanship, suggesting a series of workshops in which artists and craftsmen alike can work as well as learn from each other; thus the original idea of the Wiener Werkstatte was artistic as well as pedagogical.

The German writer Julius Meier-Graefe helped cement the idea in the form of "Wiener Kunst im Hause" (Viennese Domestic Art) in 1900. Supported by the Wiener Kunstgewerbeverein (Viennese Arts and Crafts Association) as well as the Secession, models for the workshop were also provided by foreign organizations such as United Workshops for Art and Crafts (German). The funding for the workshop was provided by Warndorfer, a textile manufacturer and supporter of the Secession.

In general, the workshop set out to connect the public, designer, and craftsman together in the production of simple domestic items. Products were required to be useful while reflecting the "modern spirit." Originally situated in a three-room apartment, the Wiener Werkstatte was later moved (October 1903) to a three-story building in Vienna's Seventh District. The building came equipped with gold, silver, and metalwork facilities; bookbinding, leatherwork, cabinetry, and paint shops were added.

After merging with architectural firm of Hoffmann, the workshop debuted in 1904 at Berlin's Hohenzollern Kunstgewerbehaus (Hohenzollern Arts and Crafts House). Three years later, the Werkstatte would expand to include the production of textiles and the opening of fashion boutiques. In 1916 and 1917, showrooms for fashion and textiles, respectively, were constructed on the Karntnerstrasse (Vienna's First District). At the same time, Werkstatte branches were added in Marienbad and Zurich. Throughout the 1920s, branches of the Wiener Werkstatte would open in New York, Velden, and Berlin.

In its heyday, the workshop became the subject of press coverage, exhibitions, and public discourse around Europe and the United States. With the expansion of forums and outside connections, an enormous system of allied artisans and artists was established.

II. Aesthetic Tendencies within the Werkstatte

The Wiener Werkstatte aimed to combine elegance, functionality, and aptness into their manufactured products. The workshop was successful, in that it lasted for nearly thirty years (1903 to 1932). In its striving towards the unity of the Gesamtkunstwerk, the Wiener Werkstatte consisted of a number of different workshops with different focuses - or as one big workshop with many miniature workshops within, depending on how one wishes to view it.

The Wiener Werkstatte combined an aesthetic platform with a revolutionary pedagogical approach, in which artists and craftsmen could come together to teach and learn from one another. Artistic influences stemmed from England, Scotland, and notably, Japan. Response to Japanese art was enthusiastic in 1900 Europe. Additionally, the Japanese artist craftsman represented a nondiscriminatory art in which common and prestigious artistry shared equal status. This representation, along with the Japanese habit of appreciating everyday beauty, fully embodied the innovative thinking of the Secession as well as the Werkstatte. For the workshop, the aim of Gesamtkunstwerk was in harmonizing the details, the high and low, and the interior and exterior.

III. Major architectural achievements of the Wiener Werkstatte i. Purkersdorf Sanatorium

Hoffmann built the Sanatorium itself in 1904 for Viktor Zuckerkandl. Notably, reinforced concrete (considered the then-latest building technology) was used along with brick masonry. Checkered blue and white tiles were the primary ornamentation. The balanced arrangement of axes, dynamic facade elements, and successful combination of intersecting edges succeeded in achieving an elegant exterior. Harmonization between the exterior and interior is seen through constant usage of cube and plane both outside and inside. Vast addition of glass partitions further emphasizes the harmony. There is no redundancy in the sanatorium's design. Simplicity is maintained throughout, without the excessive ornaments, pillars and disturbing colors. A spacious feeling is also entrenched with the array of interconnecting rooms. For the interior, angles and corners are not disguised by any trifles. Both the structure and function of the material are made clear. In an age where realism dominates, Werkstatte art seeks to show, not to hide. Interestingly, what is shown is also integrated throughout. Nothing is left alone to stand out. Thus, Werkstatte art also acts to show without being showy. Sunken panels in the ceiling are also copied in the floor patterns. Windows refracting light also lend rhythm to the rooms. Furnishings by Moser were designed to complement the cube-like exterior of the Sanatorium. Geometric austerity is captured, earning Hoffmann's 'Little Square' nickname. From planters, tables, and utensils, cubist ornamentation is applied through checkered sides, sheet-iron boxes, and square bases. From carpets to perfume boxes, geometric simplicity continues to charm and dominate.

A ii. Palais Stoclet

Established between 1905 and 1911 in Brussels, the Palais Stoclet is regarded as a masterpiece in the history of architecture. Similar to the Purkersdorf Sanatorium, the Palais Stoclet seeks to integrate geometric architecture. Coordination and harmony is captured from the gardens on down to the cutlery. Notably, for the interior decoration, Hoffmann successfully conducts a symphony of painters, sculptors and craftsmen. Horizontals, verticals, and block-like components dominate the exterior. The white marble slabs from the walls also achieve softness. The seams made up of bronze metal bands restore 'Unity of the whole'. Even with the expensive materials, the building remains serene and light. Again, redundancy is nowhere in sight. Added to the construct is a tall tower, which beautifully integrates itself into the building's overall grace. The black-and-white striped furnishings also complement the connective planes of the exterior. Additionally, the excessive windows in the main hall allows for the room to glisten and "flood with light." The gardens along with the trees are trimmed into geometric shapes leaning towards the circular arena. A constant linearity is also achieved with the building expansions, longitudinal axis, and parallelism from the dining room to the main hall. The overall design also maintains a consistency in the proportioning, rhythm, natural and artificial light deployments, as well as surface treatments. Throughout, individual parts are united, delicacy and austerity is achieved and integrated. A marriage to elegance is seen everywhere, from the colors and patterns to the measurements and proportions. Commodities such as utensils are artistically noble as well as industrially useful. In general, the Palais Stoclet proves the possibility of uniting art and life.

A iii. Villa ast

With the construction of the Palais Stoclet, the Villa ast (designed by steel engineer Eduard ast) echoes many of the same principles. Although seemingly observed to be showy, the Villa's actual design obeys the same "elementary" geometry. Classicism, or self-realization and satisfaction, is conveyed by the smooth-flowing quality of the building. Similar to the Palais Stoclet, horizontal and vertical contrasts are emphasized, along with garnishing around each window. Triangular fields, pilaster strips, and solid projectiles further encourage the geometric essence.

A iv. Villa Skywa-Primavesi

Another masterpiece was Villa Skywa-Primavesi, built between 1910 and 1914. Commissioned by Robert Primavesi, the villa takes after him and his… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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