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The Artful Traveler: Koloman Moser

Koloman Moser poster for "Frommes Kalendar" 1899 Execution: Albert Berger, Vienna Colored lithograph on paper Serge Sabarsky Collection, New York
Koloman Moser poster for “Frommes Kalendar”
1899
Execution: Albert Berger, Vienna
Colored lithograph on paper
Serge Sabarsky Collection, New York

By Bobbie Leigh

Vienna  1895-1905  was  a  golden age of design in Berlin and Vienna. It had its stars—Josef Hoffman , Gustav Klimt, and Koloman Moser.  But today Moser is less well known than other champions of Secessionist art. The new show at the Neue Galerie in New York  should  enhance  the design-loving public’s appreciation of  the often overlooked Moser  (1868-1918).   A first, this retrospective demonstrates in a huge variety of media that  Moser was an exceptional artist and perhaps even more versatile than his contemporaries.

Just about any furniture, textile, glass or ceramics  featured in the Neue’s show, “Koloman Moser, Designing Modern Vienna 1897-1907,” would be welcome in a contemporary interior.  His work will be on view at the Neue Galerie until the end of the month. It surveys  Moser’s  decorative arts career including interior design, graphic design, furniture, textiles, jewelry, metalwork, ceramics and even a design for currency, the Austro-Hungarian 100-crown  banknote.    After leaving the Neue, the show  will  travel  to the Museum of  Fine Arts, Houston, where it will be on view from September 29, 2013 to January 12, 2014.

Koloman Moser Armchair ca. 1903 Execution:  Prag-Rudniker Korbwaren Fabrikation Beechwood, painted white; woven cane seat, painted black and white Neue Galerie New York
Koloman Moser Armchair ca. 1903
Execution: Prag-Rudniker Korbwaren Fabrikation
Beechwood, painted white; woven cane seat, painted black and white
Neue Galerie New York

What’s striking about  this huge assemblage of  Moser’s work  is that  you don’t  merely admire  or appreciate what you see, but you covet it.  Small items like aMoser necklace with silver, lapis lazuli, and opals is just what is needed to  make a basic black dress outstanding.  Even an informal dinner table would  sparkle  with Moser’s 1904 napkin rings —silver, amethyst, and opal in a strict geometric pattern.

Certainly,  Koloman’s masterly combination of figurative, Cubist,  linear,  and lyrical motifs seem as edgy  and new as they did more than a century ago. 

Koloman Moser Vase 1900 Execution: Johann Loetz Witwe, Klostermühle, for E. Bakalowits Söhne, Vienna Iridescent glass with dark blue underlay, clear glass overlay with stripes and dots in silver-yellow, décor "Streifen und Flecken Ernst Ploil, Vienna Photo: © Ernst Ploil, Vienna
Koloman Moser Vase 1900
Execution: Johann Loetz Witwe, Klostermühle, for E. Bakalowits Söhne, Vienna
Iridescent glass with dark blue underlay, clear glass overlay with stripes and dots in silver-yellow, décor “Streifen und Flecken
Ernst Ploil, Vienna
Photo: © Ernst Ploil, Vienna

As this show amply demonstrates, he knew how to design a modernist, sleek lamp, making it both functional and handsome.  He was also a master of working with iridescent glass. One of his many vases in this show has a dark blue underlay, clear glass overlay with stripes and dots in silver-yellow.

Some of Moser’s most iconic posters were made at the turn-of-the-century. At that time according to curator Christian Witt Dörring’s  catalog commentary, Moser developed a “new geometric typography, alongside his fluent style of illustration in the manner of Art Nouveau.”  

Koloman Moser poster for the Thirteenth Vienna Secession exhibition 1902 Printer: Albert Berger, Vienna Colored lithograph on paper The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Joseph H. Heil, by exchange, 2010 Digital Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY
Koloman Moser poster for the Thirteenth Vienna Secession exhibition 1902
Printer: Albert Berger, Vienna
Colored lithograph on paper
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Joseph H. Heil, by exchange, 2010
Digital Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY

The exhibition’s three galleries transport you back to turn-of-the century Vienna where artists, Moser among them, were throwing off the shackles of overwrought Hapsburg baroque  taste.  With more than 200 works  on view, all the various aspects of Moser’s work  are showcased.  They trace his evolution from a graphic artist to a furniture designer and interior architect.   The doorstop size catalog is worth lugging home if only for the  excellent photographs and illustrations.  

bobbie2-200x300 Bobbie Leigh has written for many national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, and Departures. Currently she is a New York correspondent for Art & Antiques.

 

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