The Waerndorfer family provided an important link between Vienna and the United Kingdom. Fritz Waerndorfer was the son of a wealthy Jewish textile manufacturer. In the late 1880s he was sent to England to study its textile industry, preferring instead to spend his time visiting London museums where he acquired a lasting passion for modern British architecture and design. After his return to Vienna, his passion came together with his business interest forging a friendship with Josef Hoffmann, whom he assisted with preparations for the Eighth Secession exhibition of 1900 devoted to the applied arts in Europe. Charles Rennie Mackintosh and other members of the ‘Glasgow Four’ featured prominently.
Josef Hoffmann & Fritz Waerndorfer
Bookplates for Waerndorfer, designed by Kolo Moser, 1903
In 1902 Waerndorfer commissioned Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh to design the family’s music room, a highpoint of early twentieth century modernist design. A year later he sought Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s advice on the foundation of the Wiener Werkstätte, the architect encouraging his Viennese colleagues to create a ‘brand’ known for its ‘individuality, beauty and precision production’. He further suggested that every piece serve a ‘specific purpose and place’.
Undertow. Waerndorfer frieze from the music room of the villa Waerndorfer in Vienna in 1906, exhibited at the MAK Vienna
As co-founder of the Wiener Werkst¨tte, Waerndorfer furnished his house with its products. In 1907, he also commissioned Hoffmann to design, decorate and furnish a new Viennese night-spot, the Kabarett Fledermaus. Waerndorfer’s enduring penchant for novelty is evident in Hoffmann’s realisation of the commission. Among Gustav Klimt’s most prominent collectors, Waerndorfer acquired key Klimt paintings including Calm Pond in the Park of Schloss Kammer 1899, the artist’s first landscape in a square format.