German and Austrian Art Glass

WMF Glass, Loetz, Fritz Heckert, Theresienthal, Jugenstil Glass and the Austrian Secesion. A potted history

Austrian and German art glass denominations have become a little confused over the years as a result of the shifting geographical borders throughout central Europe.

An example would be Ludwig Moser & Sons, founded in 1857 in the town of Karslbad which had existed under German and Austrian rule for the majority of its history before being designated part of the Czech Republic in successive post-WWII treaties, border tweaks and resettlements.

Moser’s production lines initially existed purely as finishing facilities for glass blanks acquired from throughout Bohemia – material from Johann Loetz, for instance, was polished and engraved there. It was not until the latter part of the 19th century that a production facility was created which was soon turning out very high quality cut glass, mainly for the use of the Emperor of Austria himself. England’s King Edward VII was to become another customer of regal provenance, and the company’s renown spread far and wide. A broader clientele prompted departures from existing stylistic guidelines, and coloured art glass bowls, vases, stemware and decanters soon augmented the product catalogue.

A contemporary of Moser and Loetz was Daniel Swarovski who, having served a brief apprenticeship at his father’s factory, set up his own facility at Wattens in the Austrian Tyrol. This took advantage of the precipitous nature of the surrounding mountainous countryside by installing hydroelectric generators, which provided the power behind intensive grinding processes which enabled the production of extraordinarily complicated cut glass pieces. Swarovski enhanced the refractive qualities of his multi-faceted pieces by incorporating metallic foils – and later, chemical coatings – which produced a stunning range of increasingly brilliant diamond-like effects.

Fritz Lampl and Joseph Berger produced a similar range of figurines as did Swarovski, under the name of Bimini and in a more classical art glass style with the use of drawn trumpet vases incorporating twisted enamelled glass straws and whole-coloured stemware of delicate green or blue colouration. Lauscha Glass from Theuringia in Germany replicated this Bimini style, extending its used to less decorative, more utilitarian products such as candy-coloured knife rests and cocktail stick holders. The Freidrich, Oberglas and Ingrid glasshouses all tended to produce vases of a more geometric nature, featuring textured, roughened surfaces and generally muted, somewhat earthen colouring (with the odd startling orange or bright green exception), and the abstract designs of Walther & Düsterhaus complete the roll call of the region’s primary art glass producers with their predominantly clear pieces shot through with bright splashes of colour.

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