Koloman Moser (1868-1918),
a highback chair, c.1902, produced by Prag-Rudniker Korbwarenfabrik, Austria, elm, with woven wicker back sections and seat,
125cm high, seat 45cm high
The design of this chair is a prime example of the artistic achievements of the Vienna Secession movement. Designed in 1902 by one of its leading founding members, the painter Koloman Moser, it stands for the Secession’s quest to create - and its postulation of - a modern, Austrian style fitting to the needs of a self-conscious bourgeoisie. Central to achieving this goal for modern needs, was doing away with the reuse of all historic styles, as well as reforming the negative impact of ersatz materials and techniques on industrial production. All of these were seen as dishonest and therefore responsible for a general decline in taste.
In the course of their teachings at the Vienna School of Applied Arts, Moser and Josef Hoffmann busied their students, among other things, in providing modern designs for the wickerwork factory of Prag-Rudniker. In 1903, Das Interieur published a whole series of those designs, among them Moser’s chair and the accompanying armchair model. By 1904, their products were internationally renowned and 'The Studio' devoted a whole article to modern Austrian wicker furniture.
In accordance with the Secessionists’ belief that the development of a modern style is not the result of a complete break with the past, but instead a necessary need to reconnect with a sense of quality that had gone missing during the industrial revolution, Moser’s design is basically a modern reinterpretation of a traditional 18th century ladder-back chair. He eliminates any decorative detailing (such as, for example, turned elements) in favour of simple geometric forms. Thus the cross sections of the stiles are square, and those of the cross stretchers on the back of the chair, are round. The lone decorative element is introduced via the chequerboard-like grid of the webbing on the seat and the back of the chair. While the horizontal webbing on the seat produces a solid surface, the chequerboard pattern of the back is achieved through a staggering of solid and empty rectangles. This allows for a transparency necessary to balance the extreme height of the back of the chair with its seat. By playing off extremes against each other, the painter, Moser, makes a departure from the security of established norms to embrace the realm of individual creativity. In its simplicity, therefore, this chair speaks with a strong voice.
Very few examples of this model survive. What makes it even more rare is the dignity of its original condition.
Our thanks to Christian Witt-Dörring for helping us with the catalogue entry for this lot.
Literature: Das Interieur (4), 1903, pp. 201 and 204;
Das Interieur (5), 1904, p.26;
A S Levetus, 'Modern Austrian Wicker Furniture'. In: The Studio, vol. 3, no. 130 (January 1904), pp. 323-328;
'The Studio Yearbook of Decorative Art' (1907), p. 212;
'The Art Revival in Austria (The Studio Special Issue)' ed. by Charles Holme, London, 1906, p. DV;
Christian Witt-Dörring, 'Chair', in 'New Worlds: German and Austrian Art 1890-1940', Neue Galerie, New York, 2001, pp. 449 and 467;
Christian Witt-Dörring, 'Koloman Moser. Designing Modern Vienna 1897-1907', Munich-London-New York, 2013, p. 118;
'Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, yr. VIII', Darmstadt 1904, pp. 117 fol.;
'Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, yr. XII', Darmstadt 1908, p. 37;
Eva B Ottillinger, 'Korbmöbel', Salzburg and Vienna, 1990, pp. 107 and 110 fol.
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Sold for £12,500
Further images have been uploaded. The legs are not replaced. There is a split to one of the stretchers - this has loosened the frame. The back woven backs are worn and with losses. There is a slight chip to the left upright and the top of one of the legs - at the terminal near the seat. Images added to show these areas.
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Auction: Design - Two Day Sale, Tue, 25th Jan 2022
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