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Josef Hoffmann

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Josef Hoffmann

*  1870 Pirnitz, Mähren
† 1956 Wien


The architect and designer Josef Hoffmann was a leading light of Viennese Jugendstil, whose ideals he played a paramount role in articulating. In 1887 Josef Hoffmann began studying architecture at the Höhere Staatsgewerbeschule in Brünn (now Brno, Czech Republic), continuing his studies in Vienna from 1892 to 1895 under Otto Wagner and Karl von Hasenauer at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste. From 1899 Josef Hoffmann was himself director of the Viennese Kunstgewerbeschule, where he also taught until 1936. Josef Hoffmann joined forces with Koloman Moser, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Otto Wagner, and Gustav Klimt in 1897 to found the Viennese Secession. In 1900 Josef Hoffmann took a momentous trip to England, where he became familiar with the work being done by the British Arts and Crafts movement and became a member. However, Josef Hoffmann's acquaintanceship with the Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh was the influence that proved particularly stimulating for Hoffmann's work. In 1903, under the sway of the British artists' and craftsmen's associations, Josef Hoffmann joined Koloman Moser, with the banker Fritz Wärndorfer as their backer, to found the Wiener Werkstätte. Hoffmann was co-director of it with Koloman Moser. The aim of the Wiener Werkstätte was to elevate the decorative and applied arts to the status enjoyed by fine art. Consequently, objects produced by the Wiener Werkstätte not only bore the designer's mark; they also showcased that of the craftsman who executed the design. The Wiener Werkstätte embraced crafts from all fields and existed until 1932. Alongside his work for the Wiener Werkstätte, he also maintained a highly successful architectural practice. In 1904 Hoffmann designed the building and interior of the Purkersdorf Convalescent Home, in 1905-1911 he built Palais Stoclet in Brussels, and, in 1907, Cabaret Fledermaus in Vienna. In 1908 Hoffmann designed his celebrated "seating machine", which anticipated later seat furniture in the stringent geometry of its construction. It would be followed by numerous other Josef Hoffmann designs for furniture and crafts objects, whose clear and reduced formal language exerted a crucial influence on succeeding generations of designers. In 1907 Hoffmann co-founded the Deutscher Werkbund and from 1912 to 1920 was head of the Österreichischer Werkbund.