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Design made in Austria – applied arts of the early 20th century

Fine art is one cornerstone of the Galerie bei der Albertina ▪ Zetter in 1010 Vienna. The other, equally important one, is the captivating discipline of applied arts which was paramount to Viennese Art Nouveau. The emerging spirit in Vienna around 1900 caught Austria’s artists like a creative fever and for many initiated a frenzy of innovation and productivity.

Design of the 20th century

The transition from the 19th to the 20th century heralded a new era not only in calendrical but also in artistic terms. Historism, the wide-spread and accepted paradigm, was perceived by many young and ambitious artists as passé, too bulky and cumbersome to allow for new vistas. Hence, they gradually freed themselves from the shackles of a dogmatic academy in order to develop new ideas and forms. When these entered the artworld they caused an uproar and would influence architecture, interior and graphic design as well as applied arts in general forever. The soulless functionality and artificiality of most articles of daily use which were flooding society thanks to heavy industrialization simply had to give way to a more dynamic and natural symbolism. In this regard, an interesting feature of Austria were the often strictly geometric forms on the one hand and art nouveau’s luscious, floral patterns on the other.

Applied arts or design in the 20th century experienced the first crucial shift through the emergence of the so-called Jugendstil. Initially starting with the British Arts & Crafts movement, the idea of manufacturing aesthetic objects of everyday use as opposed to machine-produced function-only goods spread through the whole of Europe: In Germany it was known as Jugendstil, in Britain and France as Art Nouveau, and in the United States as Modern Style. In Austria Jugendstil and Secession-style are often used synonymously. Applied arts made in Austria, and more specifically in Vienna, influenced all areas of life.

Visit us in the Galerie bei der Albertina ▪ Zetter in the heart of Vienna and experience the richness of 20th century design in all its facets! We buy and sell furniture, glassware, silver, ceramics, cutlery, jewellery and much more that mirrors the zeitgeist of Viennese Jugendstil and which have long become timeless classics.

The idea of transporting beauty and aesthetics in all areas of life is closely related to the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk – a total work of art. Coined originally by composer Richard Wagner, the idea stands for works of art that harmonically combine various arts or rather bring them together out of aesthetic necessity. As Aristotle famously said, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Probably one of the most impressive examples of such a Gesamtkunstwerk is the Palais Stoclet in Brussels. From the exterior of the house and the garden to the smallest details of interior design, from lighting to cutlery, everything matches, resulting in an all-immersing artwork. In Vienna too, some buildings and apartments were conceived in a similar fashion, constituting a harmonious and consistent whole. This combination of life and art was one of the Viennese Jugendstil’s main concerns and proponents of the movement dreamt of life as one great Gesamtkunstwerk by connecting the beautiful with the useful.

Wiener Werkstätte Design

Especially the so-called Wiener Werkstätte – the Viennese Workshop – still fascinates design aficionados the world over. Founded in 1903 by artists Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser and industrialist Fritz Waerndorfer the collective quickly attracted some of the most innovative and creative minds in the Austro-Hungarian empire sharing the common aim of redefining the terms of art and to elevate the applied arts to new heights. In close cooperation with the Vienna school for applied arts (today the university for applied arts) and artists affiliated with the Secession the Wiener Werkstätte produced furniture, jewellery, prints and objects of everyday use on an aesthetic scale never seen before.

Nothing is as unstoppable as the right idea at the right time and so the Wiener Werkstätte quickly gained international acclaim with shops soon opening in Zurich, Berlin and New York. Only the economic crisis of 1929 and the consequent impoverishment of the bourgeoisie led to its demise – at least concerning the sales figures. Design made in Austria had already left an inerasable mark on history, being so timelessly beautiful that it still influences 21st century design and is collected by enthusiasts all over the world.

The Galerie bei der Albertina Zetter presents Austrian design in all its wealth 

The Galerie bei der Albertina ▪ Zetter offers extravagant art nouveau furniture and basic commodities that have written design history. We sell rare pieces of furniture not only by the founders of the Wiener Werkstätte Hoffmann and Moser but also by other famous artists/ designers such as Otto Prutscher, Marcel Kammerer, Josef Urban, Adolf Loos or Dagobert Peche. Furthermore, we offer silverware and rare glass and ceramic objects that were manufactured by the Wiener Werkstätte and designed by artists such as Gudrun Baudisch, Vally Wieselthier, Michael Powolny, Eduard Klablena, Bertold Löffler or Susi Singer.

Thereby linking up fine art with design of the 20th century we cherish and promote the fruitful connection of painting, sculpture and applied arts. For any questions concerning Viennese art nouveau, furniture, ceramics or Austrian design in general please call us (+43-1-513 14 16) or write us an email ( Of course you are welcome to visit us directly in the gallery in the heart of Vienna! We are happy to answer any inquiries!