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Postcards of the Wiener Werkstätte

The new exhibiton at the Wolfsonian–Florida International University in Miami shows a selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection of postcards of the Wiener Werkstätte.

“These postcards are exceptional works of art as well as a wonderful representation of the Wiener Werkstätte’s philosophy of creating well-designed, beautiful objects to be used as part of everyday life,” notes Wolfsonian curator Silvia Barisione. The exhibition at The Wolfsonian complements this extraordinary selection of approximately three hundred postcards with holdings from the museum’s collection, including Wiener Werkstätte textiles, decorative arts, and printed materials.

The Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) was a cooperative for artists and artisans founded in 1903 by the architect Josef Hoffman and the painter and designer Koloman Moser, both members of the Vienna Secession, with financial support from textile industrialist Fritz Wärndorfer. The objective of this enterprise was to produce high-quality products based on the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement and modeled in part on the British Guild of Handicrafts. Every aspect of daily life was to be designed, eliminating the distinction between high and low art and allowing for the creation of a Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art.

From 1907 until 1919, the Wiener Werkstätte dedicated itself to the production of artists’ postcards, printing 925 postcard motifs by 57 known artists. The purpose of expanding the production line with the design of postcards was to confer the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk onto this medium. All of the major designers and painters who worked for the firm were contributors, among them Carl Otto Czeschka, Josef Hoffman, Emil Hoppe, Oskar Kokoschka, Bertold Loeffler, Dagobert Peche, and Egon Schiele. Some of the most exceptional designs were produced by women artists, including Mela Koehler and Maria Likarz. A variety of thematic cards were produced, designed to appeal to different interests and audiences. Together, the series bring to life the rich social fabric of turn-of-the-century Vienna, including its cafes, architecture, fashion, urban types, and humor. The postcards were among the most profitable products of the Wiener Werkstätte, along with the fabrics designed by the textile department, which was established in 1910. Since their creation, the postcards have been in great demand as collectors’ items.


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