Koloman Moser - the Viennese universal talent

Why is Koloman Moser called a universal artist? What talents where his? How did he characterize Viennese Modernism? Why did he pass away with only 50 years in 2018?


Koloman Moser was born on 30th of March, 1868 as the son of Josef Moser and his wife Theresia, in a building of the „Theresianum“ (Private Academy) Two younger sisters followed. After elementary and commercial school a career in a soap and perfume business was planned for him.

He preferred to go to the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, where he passed the entrance examination without the knowledge of his parents. He studied at the class of Christian Griepenkerl. After the death of his father, he financed his studies with illustrations in art magazines. Later he studied at the „Kunstgewerbeschule“ (later Academy of Applied Arts)  under Franz Matsch.

In his younger years, he was mainly busy in arts and crafts and was influenced by the Scottish artist couple Mackintosh and the English Arts & Crafts movement. Later he worked as a freelance graphic designer and was active in all areas of applied art. 1897 he became co-founder of the Vienna Secession. For their magazine "Ver Sacrum" he designed more than 140 illustrations. He undertook various journeys throughout Europe.

His versatility made him a universal artist. In addition to works made of porcelain, glass, ceramics, metal, he also designed jewelry, textiles, furniture and even toys. In 1903, together with Josef Hoffmann and Fritz Wärndorfer, he founded the „Wiener Werkstätte“, whose aim was to promote handicrafts towards industrial production.

In 1905 he married the wealthy industrial daughter Ditha Mautner-Markhof and changed his confession because of this marriage. The Mautner Markhofs were Protestants. Two sons were born, one of them died early.

In 1907 he left the „Wiener Werkstätte“ because of differences with Wärndorfer and began to devote himself more to painting. In the following years he was influenced by the Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler.

In 1916 he became ill with cancer of the larynx and died on 18 October 1918. His remains can be found at the Hietzing Cemetery in Vienna.

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