Description & Technical information
Christian Witt-Doerring, curator at the Neue Galerie, NY, writes:
In 1905, the banker Adolph Stoclet commissioned the Wiener Werkstätte to design a palais in Brussels for him and his family. For Josef Hoffmann and his team of artists, this was one of the greatest challenges and chances of realising their concept of a Gesamtkunstwerk – a total work of art. Stoclet's financial potency and unswerving faith in the Wiener Werkstätte's artistic message assured the creation of a holistically composed masterpiece whose integrated design was harmonised down to the last detail. Starting with the architecture, going on to the interior design, the context for the extraordinary art collection, down to the table- and flatware, the Wiener Werkstätte produced the ideal example of the house of an art lover. As early as 1901, this had been the subject of a competition advertised by the Darmstadt publisher Alexander Koch who subsequently published the results as a portfolio; Charles Rennie Mackintosh took part in it. His project was only recently realised in Glasgow.
Seven years would pass until the Palais was ready to be moved into in 1911 – the Wiener Werkstätte's most productive and successful period. Ludwig Heinrich Jungnickel (1881-1965) had studied painting and graphics at the Munich Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Decorative Arts) and the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and worked on the animal frieze in the nursery of the Palais Stoclet between 1908 and 1911. His work for the Wiener Werkstätte had mainly involved textile patterns and postcards, keeping within the tradition of the Viennese planar style. The expressive power of his nursery frieze profits from a basically humorous attitude and the strong contrasts between black ground and the pictorial motifs kept in primary colours.
As in the bathroom of the upper storey of the Palais Stoclet, Hoffmann also traces a clearly defined horizon in the nursery in the top third of the wall surface, providing a counter-direction to the room's verticality and at the same time conveying the impression that the wall is breaking free of the room's shell. This top third, which potentially would share a common spatial scenario with the ceiling, is placed in stark contrast to the two lower thirds of the wall through the different decorative treatment of the remaining wall design, and thus appears against this as a flat, horizontal band. This charged interplay between flat plane and space – also a defining factor of the façade of the Palais Stoclet – became a trade mark of Hoffmann's creativity. For this effect in interior spaces, he deployed the decorative or figural frieze, as in the nursery, or in the dining room with Gustav Klimt's mosaic frieze. Hoffmann shifts both up to the ceiling, which means they become more wall than picture. Although wall, their tectonic quality is reduced to a minimum.
Ref.: Moderne Bauformen, vol XIII, 1914, p. 1ff.
Period: 20th century
Medium: Gouache on paper, Mounted on canvas
Dimensions: 100 x 290 cm (39³/₈ x 114¹/₈ inches)
Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints
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20th Century Decorative Art