Ketterer Kunst Logo

Search Lots

The international auction house for buying and selling of
Joseph Maria Olbrich

Biographies
Joseph Maria Olbrich

*  1867 Troppau
† 1908 Düsseldorf


Joseph Maria Olbrich was an architect, designer, and graphic artist. He started out studying architecture at the Staatsgewerbeschule in Vienna 1882-1886. He did a brief stint as an architectural draftsman in his native Troppau (now Oppava, Poland). 1890-1893 he again studied in Vienna, this time at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste. After traveling through Italy and Tunisia in 1893, Joseph Maria Olbrich was hired by Otto Wagner to work in his practice, where Olbrich had a taste of urban planning. In 1897 Joseph Maria Olbrich was, along with Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffmann, Otto Wagner, and Gustav Klimt, a founding member of the Viennese Secession. Olbrich collaborated on producing and designing the Secession journal "Ver Sacrum". 1897/98 Joseph Maria Olbrich designed the Secession building in Vienna, which is regarded as a masterpiece of European Jugendstil architecture. In 1899 Joseph Maria Olbrich was invited to Darmstadt by Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt, where he planned to build an artists' colony on Mathildenhöhe. On his travels to Vienna and England, the Grand Duke had become familiar with the new trends in art, including the Arts and Crafts movement. Olbrich was from the outset the leading intellect of the artists' colony. As its sole architect, Joseph Maria Olbrich designed all the buildings there. Peter Behrens was the sole exception and did design his own dwelling, "Haus Behrens". The following buildings were erected after plans by Olbrich in1900/01: Haus Deiters, the Großes und Kleines Haus Glückert, Haus Habich, and Haus Olbrich. Also designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich was the Ernst-Ludwig Haus, the main building of the colony, which housed studios and boasted a stately reception lobby, whose large, omega-shaped central portal on the south side also featured the sculptures "Mann" and "Weib", works with an agenda which were, however, by Ludwig Habig (1900/01). For the second exhibition mounted by the colony, in 1904, Olbrich built a group of three houses; that same year saw the enlargement of the main building with the addition of the Octagon to house sculptors' studios. Other buildings designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich are the Municipal Exhibition Hall, the Oberhessisches Haus (Sabais Villa) and the Nuptial Tower, all of which were finished in 1908, the year Olbrich died. In 1907 Joseph Maria Olbrich joined Peter Behrens, Peter Bruckmann, Fritz Schumacher, Richard Riemerschmid, and Hermann Muthesius in co-founding the Deutscher Werkbund. That same year, 1907, Olbrich opened a practice of his own in Düsseldorf. His last important building project was the Tietz department store (finished in 1909). Olbrich designed a great deal of furniture (for Gebrüder Schöndorff), interiors, vessels, embroidery, glass, cutlery (for WMF and Eduard Hueck), and china (for the Wächtersbach stoneware factory). Olbrich's work is at once functional and beautifully designed. He died of leukaemia at the early age of forty-one.