MAK-Permanent Collection

Historicism Art Nouveau

MAK – Museum of Applied Arts

Although bentwood furniture was not a Viennese invention, the bentwood chair is still frequently referred to outside Austria as the "Viennese chair.” The technique of bending steamed wood was common as early as the Middle Ages. Born in Boppard on the Rhine, Michael Thonet (1796-1871) was an innovative furniture-maker, and during the 1830s he attempted to develop a technically more economical version of curved, late Biedermeier furniture shapes. He succeeded, using bent and glued laminates.

His move to Vienna in 1842 by arrangement with Prince Metternich opened up to him the much wider market of the Austrian Empire. He continued consistently to develop bentwood techniques further, and in 1852 succeeded in registering a patent for the bending of glued laminates into curvi-linear forms, and finally in 1856 a patent for the bending of solid wood. In addition to the further development of bentwood techniques, Thonet's immense achievement lay in his talent for applying these techniques for producing distinctive products whose natural form and timelessness appealed to a broad public. His aesthetic, which developed out of his fascination with a production technique, opened new perspectives in seating furniture.

From its furniture collection, the MAK presents an overview of over a hundred years of production by Thonet and competing firms, from the 1830s to the 1930s. / Christian Witt-Dörring, Curator 

Artistic intervention
Barbara Bloom

The movie synopsis would read something like this: Michael Thonet, a German chair designer, so impressed an Austrian prince with his elegant designs and innovative manufacturing techniques, that he was commissioned to design some woodworking for a palace in Vienna, and then encouraged by higher-ups to relocate his factory to Austria. There, his business flourished to become a late nineteenth-century international success story.

This is an exemplary case of an aesthetically sophisticated designer who was willing to experiment with production techniques. A man dedicated to reductive methods, in which (as a forerunner for the Modernist's "Form Follows Function”) he allowed the intrinsic qualities of his material, wood, to dictate the form of his designs. He was a reductivist in terms of production as well, sparing materials and time with his economical assembly line; turning a handicraft into an international mass-produced industry. He mass-advertised and distributed his furniture by catalogue, indicating that Thonet was also a brilliant early capitalist. He understood the need to develop a consumer society whose needs were created and then met.


It's a good docudrama with a clear linear narrative. I'd like to see the part of Thonet played by someone like Nick Nolte, accented, and convincingly depicting his long and eventful life. There would be International Trade Fair first prizes, certainly several Vienna café scenes, and perhaps a factory class conflict. Good plot!

But I really look forward to (and hope I live long enough to see) a made-for-interactive video-docudrama, which might be made in the early or mid-twenty-first century, about the life of Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA. This late twentieth-century prototype of business success needs no introduction. But in the future it will be remembered as a marketer of great appeal to a wide range of customers; from most European intellectuals who filed their libraries on "Billy" bookshelves, to young 1 1/2-kid families who were helped over the hurdle of spending money by IKEA's clever tactic of giving every object in their catalogue a proper name. So, you didn't need to buy a couch, when you could bring "Bjorn" home with you.

So, imagine a double-bill of these two movies. Together they form a good paradigm of progress. What lives on? Is it the self-evident aesthetics and design finesse of Thonet? His dedication to experimental techniques? His reductivist methods? Or, some mutant late capitalism, some anthropomorphised form of supply and demand, in which the consumer need is created by "Bambi-fication". I'm sure the IKEA movie will be produced by Disney. / Barbara Bloom

Biography Barbara Bloom

Born in 1951 in Los Angeles. Lives and works in New York.

Barbara Bloom transforms in her work objects from various cultures into compositions and installations. Her primary concern lies in themes related to consumerism, information, and reality. Beauty and symmetry serve her as tools for investigating illusion, fragility, and transience in our society.

Program (18 Events)

Sat, 30.10.2021 11.00 am 12.00 pm

Tour of the MAK (in German)

Tour of the MAK (in German)
A tour of the museum offers an insight into all areas of the collection. After a brief introduction to the history of the house, the permanent MAK display collection is visited, the presentation concepts explained and individual objects discussed.
 
The tour is held in German 

REGISTRATION

Limited number of participants: registration is necessary - either in advance (possible until Friday before the tour 3 p.m.) or directly on site if the tour is not fully booked. 
 

PROTECTIVE MEASURES

A FFP2 mask must be worn during the entire visit to the museum.
 

HEADPHONES

The tour requires headphones. Please provide your own (3.5 mm standard connector) if possible. 
 

FEE FOR GUIDED TOUR 

Per person € 3,50 + admission to the museum 
 

MEETING PLACE

MAK Columned Main Hall
 
1459977553881
Sun, 31.10.2021 11.00 am 12.00 pm
Guided Tour

Tour of the MAK (in English)

Tour of the MAK (in English)
The tour through the museum leads to the highlights of the MAK Collection and offers insights into different exhibition areas. The presentation concepts are explained, and extraordinary objects are discussed. A journey through the centuries and insight into the history of the museum make the tour the perfect basis for subsequently exploring the museum on your own.

REGISTRATION

Limited number of participants: registration is necessary - either in advance (possible until Friday before the tour 3 p.m.) or directly on site if the tour is not fully booked. 
 

PROTECTIVE MEASURES

A FFP2 mask must be worn during the entire visit to the museum.
 

HEADPHONES

The tour requires headphones. Please provide your own (3.5 mm standard connector) if possible. 
 

FEE FOR GUIDED TOUR 

Per person € 3,50 + admission to the museum 
 

MEETING PLACE

MAK Columned Main Hall
 
1459977553881
Sat, 06.11.2021 11.00 am 12.00 pm

Tour of the MAK (in German)

Tour of the MAK (in German)
A tour of the museum offers an insight into all areas of the collection. After a brief introduction to the history of the house, the permanent MAK display collection is visited, the presentation concepts explained and individual objects discussed.
 
The tour is held in German 

REGISTRATION

Limited number of participants: registration is necessary - either in advance (possible until Friday before the tour 3 p.m.) or directly on site if the tour is not fully booked. 
 

PROTECTIVE MEASURES

A FFP2 mask must be worn during the entire visit to the museum.
 

HEADPHONES

The tour requires headphones. Please provide your own (3.5 mm standard connector) if possible. 
 

FEE FOR GUIDED TOUR 

Per person € 3,50 + admission to the museum 
 

MEETING PLACE

MAK Columned Main Hall
 
1459977553881
Sun, 07.11.2021 11.00 am 12.00 pm
Guided Tour

Tour of the MAK (in English)

Tour of the MAK (in English)
The tour through the museum leads to the highlights of the MAK Collection and offers insights into different exhibition areas. The presentation concepts are explained, and extraordinary objects are discussed. A journey through the centuries and insight into the history of the museum make the tour the perfect basis for subsequently exploring the museum on your own.

REGISTRATION

Limited number of participants: registration is necessary - either in advance (possible until Friday before the tour 3 p.m.) or directly on site if the tour is not fully booked. 
 

PROTECTIVE MEASURES

A FFP2 mask must be worn during the entire visit to the museum.
 

HEADPHONES

The tour requires headphones. Please provide your own (3.5 mm standard connector) if possible. 
 

FEE FOR GUIDED TOUR 

Per person € 3,50 + admission to the museum 
 

MEETING PLACE

MAK Columned Main Hall
 
1459977553881
Sat, 13.11.2021 11.00 am 12.00 pm

Tour of the MAK (in German)

Tour of the MAK (in German)
A tour of the museum offers an insight into all areas of the collection. After a brief introduction to the history of the house, the permanent MAK display collection is visited, the presentation concepts explained and individual objects discussed.
 
The tour is held in German 

REGISTRATION

Limited number of participants: registration is necessary - either in advance (possible until Friday before the tour 3 p.m.) or directly on site if the tour is not fully booked. 
 

PROTECTIVE MEASURES

A FFP2 mask must be worn during the entire visit to the museum.
 

HEADPHONES

The tour requires headphones. Please provide your own (3.5 mm standard connector) if possible. 
 

FEE FOR GUIDED TOUR 

Per person € 3,50 + admission to the museum 
 

MEETING PLACE

MAK Columned Main Hall
 
1459977553881
+

Publications

Bentwood and Beyond

Bentwood and Beyond: Thonet and Modern Furniture Design
Published for the exhibition of on the same title (18.12.2019–6.9.2020)
Edited by Christoph Thun-Hohenstein / Sebastian Hackenschmidt / Wollfgang Thillmann
German/English 
ca. 304 pages, 55 images
30,5 x 23 cm
Birkhäuser Verlag, 2019


Media

MAK Permanent Collection Historicism Art Nouveau
MAK Permanent Collection Historicism Art Nouveau
MAK Permanent Collection Historicism Art Nouveau
Gebrüder Thonet, Chair, Model N0. 14, Vienna, 1859 (Execution: 1890–1918)
© MAK/Georg Mayer
 
Josef Hoffmann, Chair, Model No. 322, for the dining room of the Sanatorium Westend in Purkersdorf, Vienna, 1904
© MAK/Georg Mayer
 
Gebrüder Thonet, Chair, Model No. 8, Vienna, ca. 1860
© Wolfgang Thillmann/MAK
 
Rocking Sofa, Design: Gebrüder Thonet/August Thonet, ca. 1875
Execution: Gebrüder Thonet, Bistritz Bystrˇice, Radomsk, ca. 1890;
Beech, solid and bent, cane; MAK H 2935/1987
Chair No. 2, Design: Michael Thonet, Wien Vienna, ca. 1850
Execution: Gebrüder Thonet, Koritschan Korycˇany, after 1875; Beech, solid bent, cane; MAK H 2174/1969; Donation Federal Chamber of Commerce
Armchair No. 38, Design and execution: D. G. Fischel Söhne, Niemes
Mimon, ca. 1890; Beech, solid bent, cane; MAK H 2928/1987
SOFA, MODEL NO. 4
Vienna, ca. 1850
Manufacture: Thonet Brothers, ca. 1858/1860
Beechwood, partly laminated and bent, rosewood-stained, damask upholstery (renewed)
H 2978 / 1988, formerly Alexander von Vegesack Collection
CHAIR, MODEL NO. 25
Vienna, ca. 1910
Manufacture: Mundus
Beechwood, stained brown, partly bent, woven cane
H 2186 / 1969, donation Austrian Federal Economic Chamber
CHAIR, MODEL NO. 1
Vienna, before 1854
Manufacture: Thonet Brothers, ca. 1858
Beechwood, partly laminated, bent, rosewood-varnished, woven cane
H 2299 / 1975
ADOLF LOOS
CHAIR FOR THE CAFÉ “MUSEUM”
Vienna, 1898
Manufacture: J. & J. Kohn
Beechwood, partly bent, red-stained, woven cane
H 2805 / 1985
MICHAEL THONET
“BOPPARD CHAIR”
Boppard/Rhine, Germany, ca. 1836/1840
Veneers, partly laminated, bent, veneered walnut, woven cane
H 2967 / 1987, formerly Alexander von Vegesack Collection