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Wagner, Hoffmann, Loos and Viennese Modernist Furniture Design

21 March to 7 October 2018
Viennese Modernism around 1900 was a veritable experimental laboratory of design whose creative impulses continue to have substantial influence to this day. Vienna’s artist-architects were among those who paved the way for modern design.

The Hofmobiliendepot – Vienna Imperial Furniture Collection presents the leading architects of the Viennese Modernist movement – Otto Wagner (1841–1918), Josef Hoffmann (1870–1956) and Adolf Loos (1870–1933) – as designers of interiors and furniture, exploring their differing approaches to the conception, use, decoration and furnishing of interior spaces.

Temporary exhibition "Wagner, Hoffmann, Loos" © SKB

Around the turn of the century in Vienna a creative collaboration had developed between architects, their patrons and furniture producers. The exhibition will thus foreground important examples of these patrons, for example the salonière and journalist Berta Zuckerkandl, and will also focus on the firms that made this furniture. Among the leading companies around 1900 were traditional furnishing establishments such as Friedrich Otto Schmidt and Portois & Fix as well as producers of bentwood furniture like Gebrüder Thonet and J. & J. Kohn.

Illustrative examples of iconic Modernist buildings in Vienna such as Otto Wagner’s Postal Savings Bank are integrated into the exhibition in the form of large-scale architectural photographs by Walter Zednicek.

The Artists

The exhibition continues with sections devoted to Wagner, Hoffmann and Loos as designers of interiors and furniture, exploring their differing positions on modes of dwelling and furnishing as illustrated by whole suites of furniture. The Hofmobiliendepot has succeeded in bringing together complete interior ensembles, including classic examples of rooms created for women such as the sitting room-cum-study designed by Otto Wagner for his wife, and the dining room designed by Josef Hoffmann for the renowned journalist and art critic Berta Zuckerkandl. Individual pieces of furniture from the bedroom of Marie Turnowsky, the sister of the writer and satirist Karl Kraus, designed by Adolf Loos, are also on display in the exhibition..

Although all three architects explored similar questions of modern design in their theoretical writings, their furniture designs were very different. In contrast to the German Jugendstil and the French art nouveau, the furniture design of the Vienna Modern movement did not manifest itself in one uniform style but was characterized by the quest for a contemporary aesthetic.

Sonderausstellung "Wagner, Hoffmann, Loos" © SKB

Otto Wagner (1841–1918), architect and professor of architecture, designed furniture for his buildings and fitted out the interiors of his own house and apartments. His approach was determined by the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk or total work of art. The Post Office Savings Bank is one of Otto Wagner’s major works and an icon of modern architecture. The exhibition includes his bentwood furniture for the Post Office Savings Bank (1904/06), furniture from his studio in his first villa on Hüttelbergstrasse (1899), items from the dining room and bedroom of his apartment on Köstlergasse (1888/99) and the sitting room-cum-study of his wife from the couple’s apartment on Döblergasse (1912).

Temporary exhibition "Wagner, Hoffmann, Loos" © SKB

Josef Hoffmann (1870–1956), a student of Otto Wagner, professor at the Vienna School of Applied Arts, founding member of the Vienna Secession and the Wiener Werkstätte, was a dedicated designer of interiors and furniture. During his long professional career he went through many changes of style. In this exhibition Hoffmann is represented by the studio he designed for the Secessionist artist Ernst Stöhr (c. 1898), a dining room for the leather goods manufacturer Gustav Pollak (c. 1901), a shop interior for the Imperial-Royal Court and State Printers (1907) and a dining room for the journalist and art critic Berta Zuckerkandl (1916), who kept a celebrated literary salon.

Temporary exhibition "Wagner, Hoffmann, Loos" © SKB

For the architect and cultural critic Adolf Loos (1870–1933), interior design was a theme of central importance. Based on the impressions gained on his travels in the USA and England, he developed ideas about interior design that placed the individual needs of the future occupants at the forefront. Among Loos’s most famous works in Vienna are the building on Michaelerplatz and Café Museum. He also designed many other residential buildings in Austria and the neighbouring Czech lands, commercial premises and cafés. On display in the exhibition is furniture designed for Café Museum (1899) and the Manz bookstore as well as three interiors from apartments in Vienna: a dining-room suite for the entrepreneur Eugen Stössler (1899), parts of the bedroom designed for Marie Turnowsky (1901/02), sister of the writer and satirist Karl Kraus, and a hitherto unknown gentleman’s study (1901/04) that is being shown here for the first time.

Temporary exhibition "Wagner, Hoffmann, Loos" © SKB


The furniture design of the Viennese Modern movement was not solely the creation of influential leading architects. A major precondition for the creative process was their close collaboration with the manufacturers and craftsmen who produced their pieces as well as the wishes and needs of their clients. The exhibition thus also showcases the designers’ clients as well as the producers of the furniture.

These clients were mostly fellow-artists and intellectuals, entrepreneurs and businessmen. However, a small number of influential women provided the designers with substantial inspiration. Among them was Berta Zuckerkandl. As a journalist and art critic she was a committed representative of the Viennese Modern movement. Of her own apartment on the fourth floor of Palais Lieben-Auspitz (today Café Landtmann) which had been designed by Josef Hoffmann in 1916, she wrote: ‘It bears the mark of the Modern style as well as my own mark.’

It bears the mark of the Modern style as well as my own mark.
(Berta Zuckerkandl)

Sonderausstellung "Wagner, Hoffmann, Loos" © SKB


Among the leading furniture producers around 1900 alongside the Wiener Werkstätte were traditional interior outfitters such as Friedrich Otto Schmidt and Portois & Fix, large-scale cabinet-making enterprises such as Bernhard Ludwig and Bothe & Ehrmann, and the bentwood furniture manufacturers Gebrüder Thonet and J. & J. Kohn. Most of the furnishing fabrics were produced by Backhausen & Co.

Temporary exhibition "Wagner, Hoffmann, Loos" © SKB


Large-format architectural photographs by Walter Zednicek illustrate the major buildings designed by Otto Wagner, Josef Hoffmann and Adolf Loos. They are supplemented by historical black-and-white photographs of the interiors in which the furniture displayed in the exhibition once stood. The exhibition will additionally feature quotations, accounts and commentaries by contemporary art critics.

The major part of the exhibits derives from the museum’s own holdings. Important loans have been made by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Vienna MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Art. A number of previously unknown objects have been lent from private collections in Austria and abroad.

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