Focus Scientific Research

Bertold Löffler - the work of the artist

Bertold Löffler (1874-1960) is of special importance as a wide-ranging artist and influential teacher for Austrian art in the first thirty years of the 20th century. Thus it is all the more regrettable that his activity and artistic creativity have so far only been studied under separate aspects and a comprehensive research effort is still lacking. While other Viennese artists of his generation, such as Josef Hoffmann, Michael Powolny or Kolo Moser, with all of whom Löffler collaborated extensively as member of the Wiener Werkstätte, have long been made well known by monographs, an encompassing study on Löffler has yet to come. The reason may lie in the great variety of the artistic activity of Löffler, who worked as a painter, graphic artist, and ceramist, but also in the fact that the full scope of Löffler's oeuvre is hardly known and a close examination is thus seriously handicapped.

The aim of the present research project is to do justice to Bertold Löffler's work in all its complexity. The focus will be on the first two decades of the 20th century. This limitation appears necessary in view of an estimated oeuvre of some 8,000 works and also stands in relation to the relevance of his activity for Austria and Europe. The said period embraces Löffler's collaboration in various great artistic projects of the time (Palais Stoclet, Fledermaus Cabaret, Purkersdorf Sanatorium, Salzburg Volkskeller etc.), which - together with Josef Hoffmann - he largely produced for the Wiener Werkstätte and which display his exceptional accomplishments as an interior decorator. During this time, Löffler also created his most important works in the field of ceramics, which were produced in his firm "Wiener Keramik", founded by him and Michael Powolny. His most successful creations as a graphic artist for books and posters also date from this period. Furthermore, this period contains Löffler's works from World War I, among which are some of his most expressive pieces and which have so far been entirely disregarded by academic research.

Another important focus of the project is constituted by Löffler's monumental facade paintings and interior decorations of the twenties and early thirties, which occupy a special position in the artist's late work. Rare examples of their time, these creations, few of which have survived, are of special interest for art and cultural historians alike. Remarkably, they often developed in connection with the hotel buildings of the architect Rudolf Frass, who so far has hardly been studied and is therefore widely unknown even among experts. However, he is considered one of the most important architects of the so-called "Heimatstil" in Eastern Austria between 1910 and 1930.

Due to their decreasing artistic quality, Löffler's later works are only to be included in so far as they are relevant for the general view. It is not possible to draw a clear temporal dividing line at the moment; however, the problem of the varying quality of Löffler's artistic production is one of the open questions on which the present research project aims to put special emphasis.