As modernity began to question tradition at the end of the 1800’s, so did designers like Joseph Hoffman. Along with other great artistic minds like Gustav Klimt and Koloman Moser, Hoffman led the way with the Vienna Secession, a movement that aimed to steer design away from Historicism and create a new style that was all its own.
The ideals of the Vienna Secession eventually led Hoffmann to the founding of the Wiener Werkstätte in 1903. Today, this fine arts society can most closely be credited with the beginnings of the arts and crafts movement. Using Gesamtkunstwerk (meaning the total work of art) as its mission statement, the Wiener Werkstätte sought out to incorporate all elements of life into one cohesive composition, unifying architecture and interior design. With the recognition of the craftsman being just as important as the artist in the creation of materials, Hoffmann turned out furniture and other home commodities that were both hand crafted and mass-produced.
Considering everything from the architecture of a home to the cutlery that was to be set on the table, he served as the artistic director for many projects influential to the Modern Movement. Hoffmann’s distinct style and favor of clean lines was seen throughout all the Wiener Werkstätte projects in the early 1900’s, emphasizing the use of simple shapes like squares and circles and favoring the combination of black and white. With this refined austerity, Joseph Hoffmann quickly became Vienna’s most popular architect, incorporating a revolutionary minimal style and steering away from the florals and frills of the then popular Art Nouveau.
Today, his furniture and home goods are still being produced by companies like Wiener Silber Manufactur and his buildings like the Palais Stoclet stand as both hallmarks of modernism and precursors to the Art Deco movement. Though Hoffmann passed away in 1956, at the age of 86, his life’s work with the Viennese Secession and Wiener Werkstätte remain significant in the applied arts today.
For examples of Josef Hofmann's exquisite work, check out his virtual collection at Neue Gallerie or take a tour of the Sanatorium Purkersdorf, a rest spa and beacon of Hoffman’s achievement, designed in 1904.
1. Josef Hoffmann, via Neue Galerie
2. Kubus Armchair, via bonluxat
3. Cabinett Collection, via bonluxat
4. Purkersdorf Armchair, via bonluxat
5. Cutlery, at Wiener Silber Manufactur
6. Wittgenstein Lamp, at WOKA Lamps Vienna
7. Settee, Model No. 728/C, via Architonic
8. BT1 Side Table, at bonluxat
9. Beer Tumblers, via Neue Galerie
10. Wallet, at Architonic