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Chair

  • Place of origin:

    Vienna (city) (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1907 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Josef Hoffmann, born 1870 - died 1956 (designer)
    J.& J. Kohn (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bentwood, beech, painted white and black, the paint renewed, with leather upholstery

  • Museum number:

    W.23-1982

  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition

Hoffmann's chair was designed for the theatre cabaret 'Fledermaus' (the ‘Bat’) in Vienna in 1907. It was designed by the Wiener Werstätte, exclusive Viennese workshops co-founded by Hoffmann in 1903. Inspired by the Guild of Handicraft the English architect and designer C.R. Ashbee had set up in London, the workshops wanted to create good, simple design and new modern forms.

This chair model was supplied in both white with black balls -and vice versa- for the auditorium of the Fledermaus, an elegantly lit and decorated room featuring white plaster walls and grey Malpaquet marble panelling and parapets. This wider than deep space was arranged in a fashion that would allow the 300 spectators to be seated around tables and yet still be able to view the stage from every point in the room. The cabaret was conceived as a meeting place for the Viennese avant-garde and welcomed people like the Viennese interdisciplinary artist Oskar Kokoschka (1886–1980).

Critics of Hoffmann and the advanced school of Viennese design, also known as the Secessionist style, pointed out how uncomfortable the chair was to sit in. However, the design was popular and remained in production at Jacob & Josef Kohn until at least 1916. The chair was also produced by Thonet: it featured oval-shaped pieces at the joints, in contrast to the round spheres of the J. & J. Kohn version.

Physical description

White-painted and bentwood beech chair, the plain turned legs joined by a rectangular-sectioned stretcher at floor level running continuously round sides and back. The rounded seat rails are supported at the front by two round ebonised balls as spandrel decoration. The back is formed by three turned cross rails, with a moulded and shaped top rail continuing beyond the back uprights to form the arms and supported by one ebonised ball on either side in the spandrels between toprail and back upright. Leather upholstery on seat, with nailing along the edge.

Place of Origin

Vienna (city) (made)

Date

ca. 1907 (made)

Artist/maker

Josef Hoffmann, born 1870 - died 1956 (designer)
J.& J. Kohn (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Bentwood, beech, painted white and black, the paint renewed, with leather upholstery

Marks and inscriptions

2
Stamping

Dimensions

Height: 73.5 cm, Width: 55 cm, Depth: 44 cm

Historical context note

This chair, designed by Hoffmann for the Viennese theatre Kabarett Fledermaus in the Johannesgasse, was there finished in black with white balls and vice versa as in this example. Black chairs with white balls were also used as outside-seating at the Vienna 1908 Kunstschau exhibition. The Kabarett Fledermaus was opened in 1907 and conceived as a meeting place for the Viennese avant-garde and as a manifesto for the Wiener Werkstätte a group of designers working in the advanced style of the time. The latter issued a pamphlet on the project. Some writers pointed out that the Fledermaus chairs were particularly uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the chairs were popular and remained in production until at least 1916.

Descriptive line

Austrian 1905-10 des. Hoffmann man. Kohn

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Jervis, Simon: Furniture Of About 1900 From Austria & Hungary In The Victoria & Albert Museum, London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1986, no.11, p. 34, 35
Theater and Kabarett Fledermaus, Wiener Werkstätte, Vienna, 16pp.n.d. (sc.1907).
Hevesi, Ludwig: AltKunst-NeuKunst Wien 1894-1908, Vienna, 1909, pp.240-245.
Kraus, Karl:Eine Kulturtat, Die Fackel, IX, 236,18 Nov.1907, pp. 1-9.
Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, XXIII, 1908, pp.158-159, illus.
Sekler, Eduard F.: Josef Hoffmann, Vienna, 1982, pp.112-113, 318-319, illus.
J. & J. Kohn: Katalog, Vienna, 1916 (reprinted Munich, 1980), p.38, NO. 728 illus.
Gebogenes Holz, Konstruktive Entwurfe, Wien 1840-1910, Kunstlerhaus, Vienna, 1979, p.73, illlus.
Moderne Vergangenheit, Wien 1800-1900, Kunstlerhaus, Vienna, 1981, p.296, illus.
Werner J. Schweiger, Wiener Werstatte, Vienna, 1982, pp.138-151 illus. chair itself and WW postcard No.67 showing the theatre room, designed by Hoffmann.
Hofmobiliendepot--Möbel Museum Wien. 2018. Wagner, Hoffmann, Loos Und Das Möbeldesign Der Wiener Moderne : Künstler, Auftraggeber, Produzenten. Edited by Eva Ottillinger. Publikationsreihe M Md Der Museen Des Mobiliendepots, Band 37. Wien: Böhlau Verlag. pp. 55-56.
Wilk, Christopher. 1980. Thonet : 150 Years of Furniture. Woodbury, N.Y.: Barron's. pp.64-68.

Uhlír Jiri, Jacob & Josef Kohn (Firm), Gebrüder Thonet, Thonet-Mundus A.G, Jacob & Josef Kohn (Firm), and Thonet-Mundus A. G. 2009. Vom Wiener Stuhl Zum Architektenmöbel : Jacob & Josef Kohn, Thonet Und Mundus : Bugholzmöbel Vom Secessionismus Bis Zur Zwischenkriegsmoderne. Wien: Böhlau Verlag, pp.87-91.

Labels and date

ARMCHAIR

Designed by Josef Hoffman (Austrian, 1870-1956)
Made by J. & J. Kohn, Vienna, Austria
Steam-bent beechwood, painted (renewed), with leather upholstery
About 1907

Designed for Hoffmann's Kabaret Fledermaus which opened in 1907 and became a meeting place for the Viennese avant-garde.

W.23-1982 [1989-2006]

Materials

Beech; Bentwood; Leather; Paint

Techniques

Steam bending; Upholstering; Painting; Joining

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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