Michael Powolny

Judenburg, Styria 1871 - 1954 Vienna

Michael Powolny was born in Judenburg in Styria in 1871. He is considered a pioneer of Austrian ceramics at the turn of the century. After training as a potter, Michael Powolny studied at the Fachschule Znaim and at the School of Arts and Crafts in Vienna. In 1906 he founded ‘Wiener Keramik’ together with Bertold Löffler, whose products were distributed by the Wiener Werkstätte. Besides Wiener Werkstätte works in black and white, intensely coloured, partially figural creations were produced as well. The cherub motif plays a major role in the artist’s overall work and is associated with his name throughout the world to this day.
For instance, Powolny symbolised the theme of the ‘four seasons’ with cherub figures in different versions. Besides ceramics, his works for the Wiener Werkstätte encompass fitting out the bar and cloakroom at Cabaret Fledermaus with tiles, Palais Stoclet, Villa Skywa-Primavesi, and Haus Berl. Michael Powolny took part in every important Wiener Werkstätte exhibition and was a member of the Österreichischer and Deutscher Werkbund. In 1909 he was appointed head of the newly founded Workshop for Ceramics at Vienna’s School of Arts and Crafts, where he held a teaching position until 1936. Powolny made a decisive contribution to the revival of ceramic art at the start of the 20th century. Michael Powolny passed away in Vienna in 1954.