Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Hagenauer: Vienna Modernism and New Objectivity

Actress Tala Birell with a sculpture by Franz Hagenauer.


Carl Hagenauer (1872-1928) founded a workshop for artistic metal works in Vienna/Austria in 1898, the “Werkstätte Hagenauer” – marking the heyday of metalworking in the arts and crafts. It should become a legendary company that produced outstanding metal (and later also wood) sculptures until 1987.


At first Carl Hagenauer produced those classic Viennese bronze objects modeled after antiquity and old masters. Flowing lines and soft natural forms were typical of the works of the young entrepreneur who had been trained as a goldsmith and silversmith, chaser and belt-maker. Within a very short time Hagenauer became the leading representative of metalworking in Viennese arts and crafts.

The next generation, the brothers Karl and Franz, introduced a stylistic shift, which meant world fame for Hagenauer. The architect Karl Hagenauer had already worked as a student in his family’s company as well as for master teacher Josef Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstätte. From then on clear geometric contours ruled supreme, and the non-functional ornament was declared obsolete. Karl Hagenauer and his younger brother Franz, who found his artistic calling in sculpture, were clearly ahead of their times in anticipating a stylistic development that later became well known as “Northern design”.


WWII brought an abrupt end to the Hagenauer’s economic success and the company now had to get by with a different assortment and alternative materials. The range of products was thus expanded in the post-war eras to include funny animal figures and pleasingly designed functional objects made of wood. Following Franz Hagenauer’s death in September 1986 production continued for another year. After this one of the most successful chapters in Austria’s metal processing industry came to a halt.


I had the chance to take pictures of some objects during an exhibition in Vienna showing works by the Hagenauer workshop for the first time in 40 years. Today the main part of the diverse and stylistically highly innovative examples of Austrian design history is to be found in private collections, also in those of Andy Warhol and Barbara Streisand.


I selected images which in my opinion should be of most interest to Dieselpunk artists in this community.


The only image not by myself is the opening photo of this article of actress Tala Birell with a work by Frany Hagenauer. Tala Birell (September 10, 1907 – February 17, 1958) was a Romanian-American stage and film actress with screen experience in Vienna. Birell doubled for Marlene Dietrich in German films. She came to England to appear in the German version of Cape Forlorn, and later went to America to play in the German version of Boudoir Diplomats. Star of stage in Europe, she became popular in American films. In 1940 she appeared onstage in "My Dear Children" at the Belasco Theatre in New York City.


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