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MICHAEL POWOLNY: AUSTRIAN SCULPTOR AND TEACHER, 1871-1954

Sculptor Michael Powolny’s Neptune once adorned the niches in the famous Dianabad bathhouse in Vienna where Powolny attended the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts. In 1906, Powolny founded, along with Bernard Loeffler, ‘Wiener Keramik’, a ceramics manufacturer which then joined with the renowned Wiener Werkstätte. The Wiener Werkstätte (Viennese Workshops) was one of the longest design movements of the 20th century and a significant organization in the advancement of Modernism. Centered in the Austrian capital, it stood at the doorway between traditional methods of manufacturing and a distinctly unconventional aesthetic. Powolny was a teacher, an artist, and a major force in the Viennese art community at that time. Neptune and Venus are the largest known ceramic figures designed by Michael Powolny. They were seen as  a departure from his earlier works, which were more playful in style. The monumental scale of  Venus and Neptune  represents Powolny’s  work with its evocative details and innovative aesthetic. Once a conservative city, Vienna became part of the Modernist art movement that developed there in the early 1900s. Powolny’s sculpture for the Dianabab bathhouse was part of this movement. The first public bath in Vienna was opened on December 22, 1887. Bathouses were a novelty in Europe at the time; 78,000 people visited the Vienna bathhouse in its first year. By the beginning of the First World War, a further eighteen shower baths had been built in the city. Approximately 3.5 million people made use of the Tröpferlbäder in 1914. The architecture of these structures throughout Austria is complex and beautiful, with ornate trim and a variety of luxury materials including ceramics, glass, tiles, and metals.

Time & Location

European Furniture, Decorations & European and American Fine Art on December 7 at 11am

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