Pewter candlestick, designed by J.M. Olbrich


British Museum

British Museum

This cast pewter candlestick was designed by the Austrian designer Joseph Maria Olbrich and made by Eduard Hueck Metallwarenfabrik. Pewter was widely used for decorative objects made in Germany around the turn of the century.After working with the celebrated Viennese architect Otto Wagner, Joseph Maria Olbrich (1867-1908) became a founder member of the Vienna Secession in 1897. To 'secede' means to break away, and the purpose of the Vienna Secession was to establish a self-consciously modern style of art and architecture which broke with the past.In 1899 Olbrich was invited to join the artists' colony at Darmstadt, a major centre of the Art Nouveau style, called Jugendstil in Germany, and the birthplace of modern German design. Here, like Peter Behrens (1869-1940), he built himself a house as well as many of the public and exhibition buildings, and began designing metalwork, ceramics and other applied arts. This candlestick was shown in an exhibition held at Darmstadt in 1904, and at the International Exhibition in St Louis, USA, the same year.Olbrich often combined geometric forms with organic motifs, and in some respects his work is similar to the designs of the Scottish architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928). The sinuous scrolling pattern on the stem of this candlestick suggests plant forms such as stamens, while the design itself suggests a human figure with arms spread out. The stem is drawn out in a typically Art Nouveau fashion.

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  • Title: Pewter candlestick, designed by J.M. Olbrich
  • Date Created: 1901/1902
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 36.20cm; Width: 11.30cm (base); Length: 17.40cm (base)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: cast
  • Registration number: 1980,0516.1
  • Production place: Factory in L
  • Producer: Designed by Olbrich, Joseph Maria. Factory of Eduard Hueck Metallwarenfabrik
  • Material: pewter
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Jesse, John