Charlotte Billwiller, Mathilde Flögl, Susi Singer, Marianne Leisching, Maria Likarz: Gruppenfoto in der Wiener Werkstätte, 1924

Just deserts

The exhibition “Women Artists of the Wiener Werkstätte” at the MAK in Vienna showcases the achievements of female designers in the gesamtkunstwerk of the renowned collective.
by Anna Moldenhauer | 5/5/2021

“Let us pay tribute to and celebrate the women of the Wiener Werkstätte and grant them the place their outstanding achievements have earned them within our image and perception of the WW!,” writes Christoph Thun-Hohenstein, Director-General of the MAK, in his foreword to the catalog for the exhibition “Women Artists of the Wiener Werkstätte”, which will run in Vienna until October 3, 2021. With more than 800 exhibits, the Vienna Museum of Applied Arts offers an insight into the broad range of creative activities of the female artists between 1900 and 1930. The artistic influence of the women active within the Wiener Werkstätte on the achievements of this cooperative, Thun-Hohenstein explains, has been underestimated in a way that is irreparable and impossible to eradicate. Yet the catalog and exhibition are intended as a striking new beginning in the assessment of the achievements by the women artists of the WW, he adds. Without wishing to detract in any way from the advances made by their male colleagues, he goes on to say, we have to appreciate that the Wiener Werkstätte owed much to the central artistic qualities and impetus of female creativity, hence the achievements of the collective would have been considerably lessened without the crucial contributions made by female designers.

In order to present the variety of works by the women members of Wiener Werkstätte, including Gudrun Baudisch, Mathilde Flögl and Rose Krenn, the team at the MAK undertook extensive research; as a result they have succeeded not only in identifying a good 180 female artists as collaborators in the WW, but also in updating or realigning a number of biographies. Arranged chronologically and thematically, the MAK’s show traces the path taken by the female artists, from education to reception – spanning, as it does so, early works such as postcards, the development of the fashion department, and the foundation of the artist workshops themselves. The defamation of their work, rooted in a sexist world view whereby the role of women was limited to that of a housewife and mother, is likewise a topic of the exhibition, as is the emancipatory potential of the profession of applied artist and the possibilities for professional development that the collective offered. There is also a hint at a more equal future in the arts – since the fact that the female artists’ contributions to the success of the Wiener Werkstätte are much less lodged in the collective memory that those of their male colleagues, it suggests, is partly due to the lack of visibility of their work. “The lesson we can take from this for the future is that reform movements which strive to bring about lasting change through the medium of art are well advised not only to give women equal opportunities to men, but also to promote the high quality of their work with as much vigor as for their male counterparts,” says Christoph Thun-Hohenstein.

Woman Artists of the Wiener Werkstätte
MAK – Museum für angewandte Kunst

Stubenring 5
1010 Vienna

5. May to 3. October 2021
Due to the ongoing pandemic, a timeslot booking is required to visit the museum.

Audio Tour through the exhibition Women Artists of the Wiener Werkstätte