Architecture

Josef Hoffmann (1870–1956)

Josef Hoffmann was one of Austria's most important architects and designers, and was central to the development of art and design in Vienna. He was its driving force.

Josef Hoffmann was born in Brünn (now Brno in the Czech Republic) where he studied at the State Crafts School before going on to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. There he studied with architect Otto Wagner and won the coveted Prix de Rome in 1895. While working in Wagner's office he met architect Joseph Maria Olbrich and – together with artists Gustav Klimt and Koloman Moser – they established the Vienna Secession.

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Sanatorium Purkersdorf
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol

Hoffmann was extremely versatile and worked closely with artists, designing exhibition spaces and directing the installation of works. He also invited internationally established designers and architects to exhibit in Vienna, including Scotsman Charles Rennie Mackintosh whose work was to become highly influential on the Secessionists, particularly Hoffmann and Moser.

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Koloman MOSER
Austria 1868–1918
Self-portrait c.1916–17
oil painting on canvas on cardboard
74.0 x 50.0 cm
Belvedere, Vienna

Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop)

Hoffmann's contribution to the development of the arts in Vienna is inestimable. Together with Moser and industrialist Fritz Wärndorfer, he established the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop), a progressive alliance of artists and designers linked to the Vienna Secession. It was formally registered as a company in 1903, with Hoffmann its first artistic director, and operated until 1932.

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Josef HOFFMANN (designer); J. & J. KOHN, Vienna (manufacturer)
Adjustable-back chair (1908)
(Sitzmaschine)
ebonised Beech (Fagus sp.), plywood, steel
(a-b) 110.8 x 68.1 x 83.7 cm (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Jardine Matheson Australia, Fellow, 1983
D17.a-b-1983

Influential furniture designs

One of the major designers for the Wiener Werkstätte, Hoffmann produced a significant number of designs, some of which are still in production such as the Rundes Modell cutlery set manufactured by Alessi and the iconic Kubus armchair whose geometric lines and cubic form have become a prototype for modern designer armchairs. His Sitzmaschine is equally famous. Hoffmann's celebrated furniture for the Gallia apartment is now part of the NGV's collection.

Architecture highlights

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Karlsplatz station, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Karlsplatz station, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Karlsplatz station, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Karlsplatz station, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Karlsplatz station, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Interior of Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Interior of Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Interior of Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Interior of Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Sanatorium Purkersdorf
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Sanatorium Purkersdorf
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Sanatorium Purkersdorf
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Secession Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Sanatorium Purkersdorf
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Secession Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Secession Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Secession Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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Secession Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015444 Karlsplatz station, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015445 Karlsplatz station, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015448 Karlsplatz station, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015449 Karlsplatz station, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015447 Karlsplatz station, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015453 Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015456 Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015458 Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015486 PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015459 Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015484 PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015460 Interior of Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015461 Interior of Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015483 PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015482 PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015465 Interior of Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015481 PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015466 Interior of Looshaus, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015480 PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015468 Sanatorium Purkersdorf
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015479 PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015470 Sanatorium Purkersdorf
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015478 PSK Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015472 Sanatorium Purkersdorf
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015473 Sanatorium Purkersdorf
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015474 Secession Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015476 Secession Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
ColApImg_EXHI015475 Secession Building, Vienna
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol
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© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol

An admired teacher

From 1899, he was appointed as a professor at theVienna School of Arts and Crafts where he was much admired as a mentor despite his unusual approach to teaching, which included assigning challenging projects that frequently involved real commissions. He also supported emerging talents and artists Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka.

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Sanatorium Purkersdorf
© NGV photographer Jean-pierre Chabrol

Influential buildings

Hoffmann's restrained and formal design for the Purkersdorf Sanatorium on the outskirts of Vienna became an inspiration for modernist architects, but it is the Palais Stoclet in Brussels for which he is arguably most famous.

This imposing villa, commissioned in 1905 by a Belgian banking magnate, was designed down to the last detail by Hoffmann. It remains the most significant example of his architectural and interior design philosophy ­– the Gesamtkunstwerk, which brought all the arts together in one commission.

© 2011 National Gallery of Victoria

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