Loetz and the Universal Exposition, Paris, 1900

‘World Exhibitions’ began in Victorian London

Poster for Paris 1900Poster for Paris 1900The first world exposition recognized retrospectively by the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) was Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace, London, in 1851. Twelve more were to be held in Paris (4 times), London, Vienna, Philadelphia, Sydney, Melbourne, Barcelona, Chicago and Brussels, each with different themes, before Paris hosted the 1900 Exposition Universelle under the astonishingly self-confident title, ‘The Evaluation of a Century’. The exposition lasted from April till November and was to be visited by 51 million people. The vast exhibition space covered architecture, engineering, mining, textiles, chemistry, metallurgy and many more topics besides, and there was also a decorative arts section. And within that section was to be found an exhibition of Cristaux et Verreries (Crystal and Glass).

Loetz invited to Paris in 1900

As early as 1896 von Spaun had received an invitation for Loetz to exhibit at the Universal Exposition. After all, the glassworks had already received a Grand Prix at the last Paris Exposition, in 1889. The art nouveau movement was already gathering pace and it must have been obvious to von Spaun that Loetz would be unlikely to score a success in Paris with its Historicist glass. By 1898 the first Phänomen Genres (PG), 166 and 6893, had been developed and von Spaun decided to concentrate on this more modern area of the glassworks’ production. It is not known under what circumstances von Spaun met Franz Hofstötter. Perhaps it was in connection with Hofstötter’s redecoration of the Herz Jesu church in Ludwigstal, though there was a glassworks in that town which probably supplied glass for the church interior. It seems Hofstötter started designing shapes for Loetz in 1899, and was also responsible for some of the new Phänomen décors (e.g. PG 356, 358, 388, 422, 436, 437 and some unnumbered décors produced specially for Paris). We do not really know to what extent Hofstötter was given a free hand and to what extent Eduard Prochaska and the master glassmakers like Karl Alferi were involved in creating the new glass.
The Loetz exhibition in Paris included 89 new models, the majority by Hofstötter, plus some older pieces. It was a tremendous success, receiving numerous positive reviews from the press. Many of the exhibits were acquired by private collectors or museums during the exhibition and many were taken up in the standard Loetz product range, though often with simpler decors and at lower prices.

Loetz wins a Grand Prix

Prizes were presented to the best exhibits in Paris. In the Crystal and Glass section, seventeen Grand Prix were awarded by a jury consisting of nine Frenchmen, and one juror each from Austria, Germany, Italy and Russia. To nobody’s great surprise, eight Grand Prix went to French companies (including Daum, Gallé and Legras), two to Austrians (Loetz and Lobmeyr), two each to Russians and Germans, and one each to Belgium and the USA (Tiffany). Hofstötter was also awarded a personal Silver Medal, though that was not for his Loetz work but for two glass mosaics, and Prochaska received a Silver Medal for assisting him.
It is also worth mentioning that a Gold Medal - the second-highest award after the Grand Prix - was presented to Harrach, Silver Medals to Moser and von Poschinger and Bronze Medals to Steigerwald, Goldberg and the Rachmann Brothers.