MAK presents the long neglected women of the Wiener Werkstätte
Men – namely Josef Hoffmann, Dagobert Peche and Koloman Moser – reigned at Wiener Werkstätte, the powerfully influential but short-lived Viennese design firm operating from 1903 to 1932. But a large number of women were also integral, although only academics and merchants seem to know a lot about them today. “We want to change that and draw attention to the talents that we might find through our research,” says Anne-Katrin Rossberg, curator of “Women Artists of the Wiener Werkstätte”, now on display at the Museum of Applied Arts Vienna ( MAK).
This means a sorority of at least 181 people, from Vally Wieselthier (ceramics) and Mathilde Flögl (textiles, fashion) to Helene Gabler (painted glass), Eilfriede Berbalk (silver) and Klara Posnanski (fabrics). “Women have created sensational fabrics and tapestries, enamels, modern graphics and leather goods, as well as their own styles of ceramics, from folk to very modern,” Rossberg continues, adding that “the Wiener Werkstätte has drawn the best of his artists, who were allowed to create without any pressure. Parents could outfit nurseries with dollhouses by Magda Mautner-Markhof, players could play whist with cards from Ditha Moser (Koloman’s wife), and Marlene Dietrich became a superstar in the 1930 film. The Blue Angel while wearing a slippery kimono made with a Maria Likarz print. Enriching and complementing the furnishings and interiors of the company, it was a delectable outing.
However, not all contemporary observers agreed. Julius Klinger, a legendary Austrian graphic designer with a sexist lean, called it Wiener Weiberkunstgewerbe, or “Decorative Art of the Viennese Broads”. According to Rossberg, “It promoted a negative image for a long time.” Not anymore, if MAK can correct the history. The visitors, explains the curator, will see “an explosion of colors and patterns, of gaiety and play, and will have an idea of the real contribution of women”. Until October 3; mak.at