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Josef Hoffmann

Josef Hoffmann

Austria (1870-1956)
Headshot of designer.

By the year 1900, Vienna was becoming a center of activity for architects and designers like Josef Hoffmann. Hoffmann was a founding member of the Vienna Secession, a radical anti-historicist movement, and together with Koloman Moser, created the Wiener Werkstatte cooperative workshop.

Although Hoffmann's designs for the decorative arts were influenced by the British Arts & Craft movement, he embraced the advent of the industrial age and concentrated on abstract and geometric shapes in his work. While he did not reject traditional decoration out of hand, he succeeded in making it serve structural principles which he believed should determine the form of buildings, interiors and objects. Hoffmann studied architecture at the Vienna Academy where he was taught by Otto Wagner. Between 1901 and 1905, he designed four villas in Vienna and a sanatorium for which he developed a "cubistic" language of form with its emphasis on straight, unadorned lines.

In 1905, he established the Kuntschau with painter Gustav Klimt and two years later, founded the Destscher Werkbund. Like Otto Wagner, his early projects were conceived as Gesamtkunstwerke (total works of art) and he produced both free-standing and built-in furniture for his interiors, pared-down rectilinear pieces, elongated to emphasize their structural role. Hoffmann is well-known for the simple, restrained, yet visually interesting dining chairs, several intended for cafés, that he designed early in the 20th century. His "birdhouse" chair, for example, reveals his way of using a decorative feature to emphasize structure. Hoffmann worked well into his eighth decade, continuing to use the geometric motifs that would influence the Art Deco Style of the 1920s.

In 1928 his work appeared in the Art and Industry exhibition held at Macy's store in New York, where it exerted a strong influence on American designer Donald Desky. Hoffmann is one of the seminal figures in the modern decorative arts movement of the first half of the 20th century.

Artist photo from 1000 Chairs courtesy of Taschen

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