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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cozy Tile Oven Designs from the Gmundner Keramik Company

On a chilly January day with snow all around here in the Washington, D.C. area, it's easy to dream of stretching out next to one of these lovely ceramic tile ovens (also known as Kachelöfen or masonry heaters).

These colorful and elegant designs are featured in a 1928 portfolio issued by the Gmundner Keramik Company of Austria.

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Library copy of the portfolio contains 32 leaves displaying a variety of styles. Some of the foremost designers of the era are represented in the portfolio, including Hertha Bucher, Ludwig Galasek, Otmar Hillitzer, Edith Hirschhorn, Leopold Kleiner, Dagobert Peche, Michael Powolny, Emilie Schleiss, Marie von Zülow, and Vally Wieselthier.

A number of these same designers were also associated with the Wiener Werkstätte, a group of artists, designers, and craftspeople in Vienna, Austria who excelled in creating beautiful furniture, textiles, jewelry, and other examples of the decorative arts between 1903 and 1932. The Cooper-Hewitt and the Archives of American Art have items produced by the Wiener Werkstätte in their collections.

Both of the designs shown here are by Galasek. The original printed portfolio, which was acquired by the Cooper-Hewitt library in 1961, has edges that were "repaired" with brown cloth tape, a pragmatic, if not archivally correct, measure taken at some unknown time in the past --although for an item as ephemeral as a 1928 trade publication, this copy is in remarkably good shape.

Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloger, Smithsonian Institution Libraries

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