09 March 2011

Otto Prutscher: Out Of Moser's Shadow


The checkered plant stand produced in 1903, the inaugural year of the Wiener Werkstatte, is a familiar image but its creator, Otto Prutscher (1880-1949) has been overshadowed by Koloman Moser, the man Josef Hoffmann called the man of a thousand ideas.  But it was left to Hoffmann and others to follow the ideas to various conclusions, enriching the vocabulary for decorative arts even today, in artists too numerous to mention, but one (or two) is Mackenzie-Childs of New York.
Blue and gold on white was a popular color scheme at the fin-de-siecle; Fernand Khnopff used it often, most notably in the design of his Brussels home Villa Khnopff.  Prutscher's designs, reproduced in Julius Hoffman's journal Der Moderne Stil (published monthly in Stuttgart  from 1899-1905), show the tug of war that took place even in individual artists as they reconciled the curvilinear lines of Art Nouveau with geometric designs and formats (think the Viennese journal Ver Sacrum).
Thanks to two friends - and collectors -  Serge Sabarksy and Ronald S. Lauder, Viennese arts of the early 20th century are now exhibited in an elegant and appropriate setting, a Beaux-Arts townhouse on Manhattan's upper east side, within sight of the Metropolitan Museum, making the Neue Galerie easy to find.   A note to bookworms, the library of the townhouse has been turned into a dual-language English/German bookstore where every aspect of fin-de-siecle Vienna is covered, including Otto Prutscher.
Like other members of the Wiener Werkstatte (Viennese Workshops), Prutscher worked in a variety of media but I am drawn to his glass work.  Here he applies geometric designs to curving surfaces in most convincing fashion.  Here the yin and yang become one, in a style as unforced as it is sophisticated.
Who knows, this could be the first of a series of posts, what with so many accomplished artits in the Wiener Wekstatte.



Images:1. Plant Stand for the Wiener Werkstatte, 1903, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.   2. Ornamental designs for Dekorative Vorbilder in Der Modern Stil, c.1900, New York Public Library.   3. Wine Glass, c. 1908, Neue Galerie, NYC.   4. Demitasse cup for the Wiener Werkstatte, 1907, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.   5. Goblet for the Wiener Werkstatte, 1905, Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
Suggested reading : Wiener Werkstatte by Gabriel Fahr-Becker, London, Tashcen: 2008.