09 March 2011

Otto Prutscher: Out Of Moser's Shadow: Otto Prutscher


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.

6 comments:

Neil said...

Can you imagine what plants you would cultivate on that plant stand? The mind boggles...

Jane said...

Neil, there are illustrations from issues of Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration (in black and white)! Also the silver lattice work pieces that the Werkstatte produced were used in that fashion. In the gift shop at the Neue Galerie in Manhattan, they decorate the reproductions for sale with live orchids and ivy.

d_flam said...

I've checked out this great blog for quite a bit now, and I'm always wondering who did that painting displayed at the top, with BLUE LANTERN lettering over it? Very misty street scene. Hopefully you'll let me know? Thanks!

Jane said...

Welcome and thanks, d_flam for your kind words. Until Blogger did one of its periodic updates and wiped the text out, it was embedded in the image. It is usually called "Street In London." It was painted in 1906 by the Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916). It is in the collection of the Ny Carlsberg Glypotek in Copenhagen. There's more Hammershoi posted here if you use the search box. Hammershoi's work is quite wonderful.

Jane said...

The thought occurs to me that Prutscher's low profile later in life was connected to his marriage to Helene, who was Jewish. That they survived World War II in Vienna is something to be grateful for.

d_flam said...

I've seen plenty of Hammershoi's work, but it was always his figure work, so this surprises me. Thanks for letting me know, I'm out to find more non-figure work of his! :)