Hilda Jesser (Austrian, 1894-1985)
Wiener Werkstatte (Vienna, Austria, 1903-1932)
Gift of Daniel Morris and Denis Gallion,
Courtesy of Milwaukee Art Museum
This fanciful ceramic vase was designed around 1921 by Wiener Werkstatte artist Hilda Jesser. Begun in 1903, the Wiener Werkstatte (Vienna Workshop) was a progressive alliance of artists and designers founded by Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser to establish Viennese design with the European community and to provide an outlet for graduates from the Kunstgewerbeschule, a Vienna design school. Jesser studied under both Hoffmann and Oskar Strnad at the Kunstgewerbeschule before joining the Werkstatte in 1916. She was said to exemplify the "WW craftswoman" because she worked in many media, including ceramics, commercial graphics, glass, embroidery, and metalwork.
The playful nature of this piece is conveyed both through its form, which mimics a Japanese paper lantern, and through its decoration--handpainted surreal-like imagery and whimsical twisted handles. Jesser's vase represents the clear stylistic shift of the Wiener Werkstätte under the direction of Dagobert Peche after the First World War. Peche's organic baroque fancies and imaginative eclecticism supplanted the geometric, rectilinear style of the Werkstatte's founders.