“It was around those coffeehouse tables that the two most successful artistic enterprises of turn-of-the-century Vienna were created. Early in 1903, the architect Josef Hoffmann was sitting with the designer Koloman Moser in the Cafe Hermannshof opposite the Opera, discussing the creation of applied arts workshops similar to those of the English Arts and Crafts movement. There they were joined by Felix Wärndorfer, a Jewish businessman with a passion for the work of William Morris. When he heard about their project he reportedly slapped 500 kronen down on the table - and the Wiener Werkstätte was born. It proved so successful that in its heyday it had retail outlets in Berlin and New York, as well as Vienna” (p. 8).
So as we begin 2014, we can think appreciatively of Morris’s connection to Jewish Vienna at the beginning of the twentieth century, of his global reach, and of Morris’s essential role in the founding of the Wiener Werkstätte, which in manufacturing furniture, household items, jewellery and so on represented a twentieth-century afterlife of Morris and Co.
—Linda K. Hughes
(Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons)