Koloman Moser was a pioneer of modernity. Not only was he the co-founder of the Wiener Werkstätte, but he also was the world’s first graphic designer. He worked as a painter, illustrator, and artisan. Moser is also well known for his designs for jewellery, furniture, textiles and wallpapers.
Before beginning his career as a multifaceted artist, Moser studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna where he was taught by Otto Wagner, the famous architect and city planner of Vienna and where he would later spend eight years teaching. He also attended courses by Franz Matsch and Gustav Klimt. During his studies Moser met the architects and decorators Joseph Maria Olbrich and Josef Hoffmann. His first work was a job as an illustrator for the art journal Meggendorfer Blatter
At the beginning of the 1890s, Moser began developing an innovative and highly individual variant of the Jugendstil while working as an illustrator. In 1897, he was part of the alliance of artists and architects surrounding Klimt, Olbrich, and Hoffmann, who founded the Secession to propagate radically new aesthetic ideas. Moser contributed heavily: he designed and also partly produced the stained glass windows, textiles, furniture, and different decorative objects for the Secession building. Furthermore, he created posters and illustrations.
During these years Moser was one of the most influential artists in Vienna. As an expression of his passion for Jugendstil he organised the sixth themed exhibition of the Secession. In the following years, he worked as a stage designer for the ensuing exhibitions of the group. In the same year, he began to create more and more monumental paintings which were especially remarkable for their bright colours. Moser’s most important paintings were created in the second decade of the 20th century.
Moser also contributed to the magazine Die Fläche (The Space) and the self-styled “illustrated biweekly scripture for the artistic, spiritual and economic interests of urban culture” magazine Hohe Warte; both published in Vienna and Leipzig. Another title they used for their magazine was Organ for the Nurture of Artistic Education. Their topics included house-, city-, and interior architecture, but also with interior art, fine arts, and technology. The magazine staff represented the various fields of interests; among them architects Josef Hoffmann and Jugendstil-critic Hermann Muthesius (1861-1927). Later the group was complimented by another architect, the art theoretician Paul Schultze-Naumburg (1869-1949), who later joined the NSDAP and gathered questionable fame with his nationalistic art theory books Kunst aus Blut und Boden (Art from Blood and Soil) (1934) and Rassengebundene Kunst (Race-Related Art) (1934), and Professor Otto Wagner.
In 1903, Moser was involved in the foundation of another important association of artists, the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) which offered jobs and research opportunities to graduate students. They crafted the most diverse decorative objects in their studios: jewellery, tapestries, and articles of daily use. Some of these creations were used in the decoration of buildings that were conceived by the association-internal architects, like Otto Wagner.
In later years, Moser travelled and worked in different countries like France, Germany, Switzerland, and the Low Countries. He especially favoured the cities of Bern, Hamburg, and Paris. In 1905, he participated – together with Klimt and Josef Hoffmann – in the celebrated project of the now famous Palais Stoclet in Brussels. In the same year he left the Secession and two years later, also, the Wiener Werkstätte. His artistic style quickly started to change and transform, inspired by French and Belgian Art Nouveau, into a more sober version of the Jugendstil with long and geometrical shapes replacing the intricate and curved, endlessly dancing arcs.
Moser fused various influences from “high” art as well as from applied art, and was fascinated with the different branches of artistic expression, from painting to interior decoration and illustration. This makes him one of the artists who embodied the ideals of the Jugendstil, Art Nouveau, the Arts and Crafts Movement and ultimately the Secession. He died in October of 1918, aged 50, suffering from throat cancer.
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