Austrian, 1870 - 1956
Wiener Werkstätte, manufacturer (Vienna)
Centerpiece bowl, 1924–1925
H. 7 1/8 x W. 12 (with handles) in.
Josef Hoffmann is acknowledged as among the first of Viennese Form-givers to evolve a new modernism at the turn of the century, one based initially on reductivism (the elimination of unnecessary ornament)and on geometry. Spanning a fifty-year career, however, Hoffmann's work is far too diverse to be easily classified. His forms range from an austere linearity to the baroque. As a master assimilator, intuitive and endlessly inventive, Hoffmann produced a wide variety of styles, which confirm his eclectic genius.
In this proto-Art Deco centerpiece bowl, Hoffmann adds to two neoclassical fluted forms a Viennese verve--the unnecessary arabesque of handles. The two ribbon-like elements may have been inspired by the widespread use of ribbons and streamers long familiar to a Viennese culture proud of its festive, celebratory traditions, and one likewise distinct from their more sober German neighbors. The loops seem to function, if at all, as an insolent provocation of ornament at a time when the purist tenets of the avant-garde held sway.