Primitive – Rustic – Classical

CiA recommends a visit to Tate Liverpool to see the exhibition GUSTAV KLIMT: PAINTING, DESIGN AND MODERN LIFE.The Klimt paintings, including the reconstruction of the Beethoven Frieze created for the Vienna Secession in 1902, present a necessarily limited selection of his work. The great boon is the display of furniture and artefacts created by Josef Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstatte for many of the same connoisseurs who commissioned Klimt’s radically icon-like paintings.

The variety of Hoffmann’s work, at one point geometric, then stylishly classical, then utilitarian, was matched only by the indulgent eclecticism of his clients. Who, for example, could fail to be charmed by the coal scuttle designed for Ludwig Wittgenstein’s brother?

The Primavesi family had three properties designed by Hoffmann, the strangest being the rustic-classical villa in Winkelsdorf (now Koutny) Moravia from 1913-14. With its two-coloured log construction, painted window shutters, primitive eight column portico and steeply thatched roof it presented an incendiary combination for a modern house which sadly burnt down in 1922.

Material on the building is available at this link…

The catalogue from the Liverpool exhibition contains an excellent essay by Beatriz Colomina ‘Sex, Lies and Decoration: Adolf Loos and Gustav Klimt’. She begins with the bracing assertion “Adolf Loos is the only architect of his generation whose thinking is still influential today.” The contemporary vogue for decoration and ornament perhaps threatens that claim, and the display of Hoffmann material offers an alternative vision for the framing of modern life.


Picture: detail of the Villa Primavesi, Vienna before restoration

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