Josef Hoffmann
Austrian, 1870 - 1956
Wiener Werkstätte, manufacturer (Vienna)
Grid Basket, c. 1905–1910

H. 6 (to handle) x W. 10 1/4 x D. 5 1/2 in.

The applied arts produced during the early years of the Wiener Werkstätte are remarkable for their geometric refinement and elegant simplicity, an antidote to the repetitive march of ornament derived from historical models and the exuberance found in continental Art Nouveau. It was a period of close artistic collaboration between Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser (co-founders of the Wiener Werkstätte in 1903) to whom the WW was exclusively devoted for the first three years. Occasionally, their designs are indistinguishable, especially their metal gitterwerk, a series of tabletop accessories1 immediately recognizable for their open gridwork.

Gitterwerk pieces were produced in numerous variations. Those in silver were designed for a wealthier clientele to harmonize with luxurious interiors, often being one-of-a-kind. Sacrificing nothing in creativity, the painted tin works were aimed at a larger market for less cost, usually produced in editions of five or more. A cubic rectilinearity and the appreciation for geometric order and ornamental restraint were the quintessence of Vienna's new mode.2

1The Viennese dining table played an extremely important role in nurturing an appreciation for art. Beyond tabletop accessories, Koloman Moser went so far as to design special pastries.

2Similarities suggested between gitterwerk pieces and ironwork bridges are not surprising. The influence of new engineering technology, found especially in Vienna's extensive new bridgework over the Danube at the turn of the century, would have been a logical inspiration.