GLASSES FROM THE EMPIRE AND BIEDERMEIER PERIOD
From the MAK Collection and the Glass Collection of Christian Kuhn
A phenomenal insight into the significant glass design techniques from the era between 1780 and 1840 is offered by the exhibition GLASSES FROM THE EMPIRE AND BIEDERMEIER PERIOD: From the MAK Collection and the Glass Collection of Christian Kuhn. This wide-ranging presentation in the MAK Exhibition Hall brings together 180 select objects from the MAK Glass and Ceramics Collection as well as some 180 objects from the glass collection of Christian Kuhn, thereby once again positioning Biedermeier glass at the heart of a MAK exhibition after almost a decade. It will be shown in parallel to the MAK exhibition THE GLASS OF THE ARCHITECTS: Vienna 1900–1937, an overview of over 300 glasses from the final years of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy to the end of the First Republic, organized in cooperation with LE STANZE DEL VETRO, Venice.
A collaboration between an experienced collector and a curator, the show GLASSES FROM THE EMPIRE AND BIEDERMEIER PERIOD draws on a longstanding tradition in the history of the MAK. “Even the exhibition of glasses from classicism, the empire and Biedermeier period, which took place at the then Austrian Museum of Art and Industry—today’s MAK—in 1922 and the name of which inspired our show, predominantly presented glasses from private collections, with the collectors working together closely with the custodian of the museum,” according to Rainald Franz, curator of the exhibition and the MAK Glass and Ceramics Collection. The 1922 exhibition was followed by Gustav Pazaurek’s book Gläser der Empire- und Biedermeierzeit, published in 1923, which has remained a standard reference work on the topic to the present day. The glasses from this period were extremely important to the museum at that time. On the one hand, an attempt was made to identify the art historical development of the glass types and decorative techniques, while on the other the wealth of glass finishing techniques and design provided stimuli, which the local glass suppliers in Vienna—but also in the glass centers of Bohemia—would later revisit. “Biedermeier as an educator” became the catchphrase of art criticism, and the Austrian Museum of Art and Industry reacted to the interest in designers like Josef Hoffmann by hosting historic exhibitions.
With the aid of carefully chosen objects, GLASSES FROM THE EMPIRE AND BIEDERMEIER PERIOD provides an insight into the technical and artistic developments of the age, which are particularly important for high-quality Biedermeier glasses. Among the earliest examples on display are the works by Josef Mildner (1765–1808), which show a high standard of technical and artistic skill. Pieces from the workshop of Samuel Mohn (1762–1815) and his son Gottlob (1789–1825), as well as from Anton Kothgasser (1769–1851) and his workshop, represent transparent painting. The technique of glass cutting, which ranks among the most difficult means of working glass and which enjoyed its heyday in the Biedermeier period, is the focus of prominent proponents such as Dominik Biemann, Franz Paul Gottstein, Hieronymus Hackel, Johann Lenk, Anton Simm, Franz Anton Pelikan, and August Böhm the Younger.
Central to the Christian Kuhn Collection are Lithyalin glasses. On display are works by Friedrich Egermann from Polevsko (Blottendorf) near Nový Bor (Haida) in North Bohemia, who achieved the culmination of the technique with his Lithyalin works. Egermann created a new type of Lithyalin glass, which is characterized by effectively and expressively colored, non-homogeneous sections and multicolored surfaces. He partly obtained these glasses from the Harrach’sche Hütte, Nový Svet (Neuwelt, now part of Harrachov), which also produced Lithyalin glasses. The agate glasses by the Bouquoy’sche Glashütten in South Bohemia—a company located close by the glassworks by Josef Zich in Joachimsthal in the Waldviertel, Lower Austria—are also considered outstanding examples of Lithyalin glasses. They already suggest the later development of glass, which reached new peaks at the Loetz’sche Hütte in Klášterský Mlýn (Klostermühle).
The exhibition GLASSES FROM THE EMPIRE AND BIEDERMEIER PERIOD: From the MAK Collection and the Glass Collection of Christian Kuhn is accompanied by a publication of the same name.