Viennese Architect and Designer Josef HoffmannFeatured in Clark Exhibition Opening June 16

For Immediate Release

April 22, 2002

Rarely seen work of designer Josef Hoffmann,a leading figure in Vienna's art revival of the early twentieth century, will be featured in Josef Hoffmann: Homes of the Wittgensteins, on view at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute June 16 through September 2.  Hoffman helped found the influential Wiener Werkstatte and stimulated the American Arts and Crafts movement.  His decorative arts will be explored in the exhibition through his work for Karl and Paul Wittgenstein, a prominent Vienna family. Furniture and silver commissioned by the Wittgensteins, much of which is drawn from private collections and never before seen in the United States, will be featured, in addition to more than fifty design drawings by Hoffmann, on loan from the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts (MAK).

"These commissions created by Hoffmann for the Wittgenstein family exemplify the sleekness of design, emphasis on practicality, and celebration of craftsmanship that made Hoffmann one of the pivotal designers in the modernist movement," said Brian Allen, director of curatorial administration at the Clark.

It was through the patronage of clients like the Wittgensteins that Hoffmann was first able to experiment with new design ideas. The Wittgensteins were one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Vienna. Patriarch Karl Wittgenstein, a self-made entrepeneur, had eight children including philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and pianist Paul Wittgenstein. The family's social ambitions provided Hoffmann with the financial support he needed for his novel, and sometimes extreme, design ideas.

The furniture in the exhibition includes a black-stained oak writing desk commissioned in 1905 by Karl Wittgenstein's daughter Margarethe Stonborough. The architectural and cubic desk is one of Hoffmann's most architectural designs and has the look of abstract sculpture. Hoffmann's interest in the English Arts and Crafts movement can be seen in silver pieces such as a 1903 sugar bowl bought by Justine Wittgenstein. In addition to the works by Hoffmann himself the exhibition includes a silver vitrine from Karl Wittgenstein's Vienna Palace in Alleegasse; designed by Carl Czeshka, the vitrine decorated with moonstone, opal, lapis lazuli,  and onyx is one of the most lavish objects ever produced by the Wiener Werkstatte.

Born in Moravia in 1870, Josef Hoffmann studied architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts under Carl von Hasenauer and Otto Wagner. He established his own office in 1898 and was a founding member of the Vienna Secession, a group of revolutionary artist and architects. In 1903 he and a group of Vienna designers founded the Wiener Werkstatte, a workshop based on the teachings of William Morris. Hoffmann's early work relates to Art Nouveau, while the function and purity of his later works show him to be a precursor of the Bauhaus movement.  The exhibition is organized for the Clark by Christian Witt-Dörring, curator of furniture and woodwork at MAK, the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna.

"It is due to Dr. Witt-Dörring's great expertise that we are able to present this selection of works that the public would otherwise never have the opportunity to see," noted Clark director Michael Conforti. "Because of his special knowledge of Hoffmann's work, including pieces in private family collections, we will be able to show the artist's greatest objects through one set of commissions."

Josef Hoffmann is one of four focused exhibitions presented by the Clark in summer 2002 that explore the deep cultural change Vienna experienced in the 18th and 19th centuries. Gustav Klimt Landscapes is the first exhibition devoted exclusively to the poetic landscapes of the great Viennese Symbolist. Bernardo Bellotto's cityscapes of Vienna from 1758 to 1761 show the old city at the height of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and an exhibition of architect Otto Wagner's work focuses on designs for the never-built Vienna Academy of Fine Arts.

The Vienna Project

The Clark's Vienna exhibitions are part of "The Vienna Project," a collaboration of eleven leading Berkshire cultural attractions during the summer and fall of 2002. Programs range from the age of Mozart to the present and include art exhibitions, music, theater, opera, and film. Participating organizations are: the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, MASS MoCA, Tanglewood, Shakespeare & Company, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Berkshire Opera, the Berkshire Museum, the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Williams College Museum of Art, the Berkshire Theatre Festival, and the Berkshire Choral Festival. For more information, visit www.berkshirearts.org.

The Clark

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is one of the country's foremost art museums and also a dynamic center for research and higher education in art history and criticism. The Clark's exceptional collections of Old Master, Impressionist, and 19th-century American art on display in the museum's intimate galleries are enhanced by the beauty of its 140-acre setting in the Berkshires. The Clark is also recognized for its special exhibitions, such as the recent Impression: Painting Quickly in France, 1860-1890, which concurrently advance critical thought and generate popular interest in the arts.

The Institute is one of only a few art museums in the U.S. that is also a major research and academic center, with an international fellowship program and regular conferences, symposia, and colloquia, and an important art research library. The Clark, together with Williams College, jointly sponsors one of the nation's leading M.A. programs in art history, which has been part of the professional development of a significant number of directors of art museums, curators, and scholars. The Clark's Fellows and conference programs draw university and museum professionals from around the world to pursue research and share new scholarship.  The Institute encompasses one of the most comprehensive art history libraries in the world. The Clark also is home to the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, which serves more than 50 institutions in the region and also provides professional training in art conservation.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free through May.  For more information call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.

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