Koloman Moser - Am Steinhof Church Design for the Right Side Altar Guardian Angel, 1904, Image via wikiart.org

Koloman Moser

Austria 1868 - 1918

Art Nouveau

Koloman Moser
Koloman Moser
June 15, 2016

Shaping the graphic art of the 20th century, a pioneer of modern design, Koloman Kolo Moser was creating in various types of media, making two and three-dimensional pieces in a distinctive combination of predominantly geometric shapes with its surroundings that resulted with rhythmical space of cubic forms and contrasting colors. One of the foremost artists of the Vienna Secession, Moser was also a founder of the Wiener Werkstätte, along with his colleague and friend Josef Hoffman. His oeuvre covered a wide range of artworks from graphic, furniture, and interior design, to applied arts and painting. His portfolio of designs, Die Quelle, created between 1901-2 placed the themes that stayed in production for many years. Similar to Art Nouveau arabesques and floral motifs, these solutions showed the shift towards different aesthetic, inspired by Japanese textile patterns and designs.

Koloman Moser - Tanzende Mädchen, 1898 (Left) - Vorfrühling 1, 1900 (Right) new works edit book austrian kolo ver sacrum 1897 koloman
Koloman Moser – Tanzende Mädchen, 1898 (Left) / Vorfrühling 1, 1900 (Right)

Koloman Moser and the Founding of the Viennese Secession

Moser was born in 1868 in Vienna to a family who supported his desire to study art. After his drawing studies at the Trade school in Wieden, he applied at Vienna’s Akademie der Bildenden Kunste (Academy of Fine Arts) in 1885. After the sudden death of his father three years later, Moser had to start to earn money by illustrating books and magazines, the fashion and humor publications. As a member of the Siebener Club, along with Josef Hoffmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Otto Wagner and Gustav Klimt, he was a co-founder of the Viennese Secession in 1897. It was based on the model of five and four years older Berlin and Munich Secessions that were also formed by a group of artists who have rejected the academic art scene. Moser was in charge for the design of their journal Ver Sacrum that was published in an unusual large square format for only five years, but long enough to lay the foundation for graphic design among the magazines worldwide.

Moser was born in Vienna

Koloman Moser - Möbel Entwurf, 1903 new works edit book austrian kolo ver sacrum 1897 koloman moser vienna secession new hoffmann koloman
Koloman Moser – Möbel Entwurf, 1903

Creation and Expansion of the Wiener Werkstätte

United by their iconoclasm, not by a common style, members of the Secession had the numerous disagreements, and Moser soon started to move away from the curvilinear Art Nouveau style to the precise lines and geometric shapes that were more appropriate for his interior designs, designating himself as the group leader in developing innovative language of forms. In 1903, Moser, Hoffmann, and Fritz Waerdorfer founded the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) as a production community of various visual artists that began its work in three small rooms and soon expanded to the three-story building with the section for metal, leather, bookbinding, woodworking and a paint shop. Besides being a co-director, he also designed the glass, textile, and furniture for different firms. The objects produced by the Wiener Werkstätte bear the mark of the both designer and the craftsman, in accordance with the principle of equality of art and craft. Their aim was to establish a close relationship between the public, designer and the craftsman by producing simple and useful domestic items.

Koloman Moser: The master of modern designing

Koloman Moser - Steinhof Church, Altar, 1905 edit
Koloman Moser – Steinhof Church, Altar, 1905

Painting as the Expression of Personal Philosophy

In 1905, at the same time as Klimt, Moser left the Secession. One year earlier he made a stunning achievement with the design of the stained glass windows and Apse mosaic on Otto Wagner’s Steinhof Church in Vienna. He married Editha Mauthener von Markhof, the heiress from an industrial family who helped him with a loan when in 1906, the Wiener Werkstätte suffered financial hardship. Due to a difference of opinion, Moser withdraws from the institution, directing his creative energy to painting and theater design. As a painter, he made series of landscapes of The Alps, characteristic for their simple composition, naturalistic detail, and vivid colors, inspired by the Swiss painter Ferdinand Holder. Few years before he died, Moser has been focused on monumental figurative pieces devoted to Vitalism, a philosophy of idealized man he believed in.

His series of landscapes of the Alps are characteristic for their simple composition and naturalistic detail

Koloman Moser - Semmeringlandschaft, 1913 koloman moser vienna secession new hoffmann
Koloman Moser – Semmeringlandschaft, 1913

Fulfilling the Gesamstwerk Principle

During his career, he designed a wide range of different artworks, from books illustrations and postage stamps to magazine designs, stained glass windows, porcelains and ceramics, blown glass, silver, jewelry and furniture. Always inspired by the clear lines and repetitive motifs of classical Greek and Roman arts, he skillfully managed to incorporate modern elements of his Viennese surroundings. Leaving his mark on many ways, in 1900, he became a professor at the Kunstgewerbeschule where he taught decorative drawing and painting until his death. Koloman Moser died on October 18, 1918, at the age of fifty. His influence on Graphic design was noticeable at the beginning of the 20th century and during the time, it became even more significant in various spheres of arts and crafts. His furniture is recognizable by its cubic forms and both aesthetic and functionality, fulfilling the Secession’s Gesamstwerk principle of the total artwork in which architecture, painting, sculpture and decorative arts would be integrated into environments, creating the unified whole.

Featured image: Koloman Moser – Guardian Angel, Design for the Right Side Altar in Steinhof Church, 1904, Image via wikiart.org

YearExhibition titleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Körper, Psyche & Tabu. Wiener Aktionismus & die frühe Wiener Moderne Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig (MUMOK), ViennaGroup
2015Paris, Vienna, Budapest - between symbolism and art nouveau Koller Gallery, BudapestGroup
2015Wiener Wohnkultur 1900 Bis 1930 Galerie bei der Albertina - Christa Zetter, ViennaGroup
2014Dark Chambers - On melancholy and depression Museum Dr. Guislain, GhentGroup
2014And Yet There Was Art Leopold Museum, ViennaGroup
2014Posters of the Vienna Secession, 1898-1918 Neue Galerie New York, New York City, NYGroup
2013Koloman Moser: Designing Modern Vienna 1897–1907 - MFAH - Museum of Fine Arts Houston,HoustonSolo
2013Koloman Moser - Zeichnungen Aus Seiner Schaffensperiode Galerie Wolfrum, ViennaSolo
2013Designing Modern Vienna 1897-1907 Neue Galerie New York, New York City, NYSolo
2013To Open Eyes - Art and Textiles from the Bauhaus to Today Kunsthalle Bielefeld, BielefeldGroup
2013Wien Berlin. Kunst Zweier Metropolen Berlinische Galerie, BerlinGroup
2013Jubiläumsausstellung Galerie bei der Albertina - Christa Zetter, ViennaGroup
2013Unbekannte Moderne - Aus Tschechien und Mitteleuropa Zeit Kunst Niederösterreich - Landesgalerie Für Zeitgenössische Kunst, St. PöltenGroup
2013Egon Schiele and his age Museum of Fine Arts - Budapest, BudapestGroup
2013Dekadenz - Positionen des österreichischen Symbolismus Belvedere, ViennaGroup
2013Clouds - World of the Ephemeral (Wolken - Welt des Fluechtigen) Leopold Museum, ViennaGroup
2013German And Austrian Decorative Arts Neue Galerie New York, New York City, NYGroup
2012Der Nackte Mann Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz, LinzGroup
2012Reflecting Fashion - kunst und Mode seit der Moderne Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig - MUMOK , ViennaGroup
2011Vienna 1900: Style and Identity Neue Galerie New York, New York City, NYGroup
2011Alpine Desire Austrian Cultural Forum New York, New York City, NYGroup
2010Wien 1900 - Klimt, Schiele und ihre Zeit Fondation Beyeler, RiehenGroup
2010Egon Schiele e il suo tempo Palazzo Reale, MilanGroup
2010Augenschmaus - Vom Essen im Stilllebben Bank Austria Kunstforum, ViennaGroup
2009Sogni E Visioni - Grafica Europea Tra Simbolismo E Secessione. Simone Aleandri Arte Moderna, RomeGroup
2009Klimt, Schiele and Viennese Art Suntory Museum, OsakaGroup
2009Selections From The Permanent Collection Neue Galerie New York, New York City, NYGroup
2008Dorotheum comes to Moscow Stella Art Foundation, MoscowGroup
2008Design Cities Istanbul Modern, IstanbulGroup
2007Koloman Moser und die Wiener Werkstätte Leopold Museum, ViennaSolo
2007Design contre Design - Deux siècles de créations Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, ParisGroup
2007Fondation Beyeler: EROS in der Kunst der Moderne Bank Austria Kunstforum, ViennaGroup
2006Kunst und Dekoration. Der Traum vom Jugendstil Schloss, Augusteum und Prinzenpalais,OldenburgGroup
2006busy going crazy. the Sylvio Perlstein collection La Maison Rouge, ParisGroup
2006EROS in der Kunst der Moderne Fondation Beyeler, RiehenGroup
2006Körper, Gesicht und Seele; Vom 16. bis zum 21. Jahrhundert Leopold Museum, ViennaGroup
2006Opera Austria Centro per l´Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato, POGroup
2006Prospettive frammentate. Arte nel cuore dell´Europa Centro per l´Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato, POGroup
2006Österreich - 1900-2000 Sammlung Essl - Kunsthaus, KlosterneuburgGroup
2005Klimt, Schiele, Moser, Kokoschka - Vienna 1900 Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, ParisGroup
2005Vienne 1900 Klimt, Schiele, Moser, Kokoschka Musée d´Orsay, ParisGroup
2005Herzensschrei. Das Kind im Blick der Künste. Österreich&Ungarn 1900 -2005 WEINSTADTmuseum Krems, KremsGroup
2005Wien um 1900 - Klimt, Moser, Wagner und die Wiener Werkstätte Leopold Museum, ViennaGroup
2004The Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America 1880-1920 Los Angeles County Museum of Art - LACMA, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2003Himmelsschwer - Transformationen der Schwerkraft Landesmuseum Joanneum, Volkskunde,GrazGroup
2003HIMMELSCHWER - Transformationen der Schwerkraft Minoriten Kultur, GrazGroup
2002Boeckl, Schiele, Klimt, ... Kunstmetropole Wien Stadtgalerie Klagenfurt, KlagenfurtGroup
2001Ornament und Abstraktion Fondation Beyeler, RiehenGroup
2001Vision Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Toyota AichiGroup
2000Waldmüller – Schiele – Rainer, Meisterwerke des Niederösterreichischen Landesmuseums Kunsthalle Krems, KremsGroup
2000Secession modern art in Austria and Germany 1890s–1920s National Gallery of Australia,Canberra, ACTGroup
1999Die Kunst der Linie - Möglichkeiten des Graphischen Landesgalerie am Oberösterreichischen Landesmuseum, LinzGroup
1996The Viennese Line - Art And Design Circa 1900 Galerie St. Etienne, New York City, NYGroup
1996Kunst aus Österreich 1896-1996 Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, BonnGroup
1993Viena 1900 Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, MadridGroup
1991Viennese Graphic Design - From Secession To Expressionism Galerie St. Etienne, New York City, NYGroup
1988From Art Nouveau To Expressionism Galerie St. Etienne, New York City, NYGroup
1986Viennese Design And Wiener Werkstatte Galerie St. Etienne, New York City, NYGroup
1986Vienna 1900: Art, Architecture and Design MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NYGroup
198441. Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte La Biennale di Venezia, VeniceGroup
1980Österreichische Grafik und Malerei 1890 - 1925 Galerie Ariadne - Thomas Netusil Kunsthandel, ViennaGroup
1977Frühes Industriedesign Wien 1900-1908 Galerie nächst St. Stephan - Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Vienna Group
1968Word and Image: Posters and Typography from the Graphic Design Collection of the Museum of Modern Art 1879-1967 MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NYGroup