Lot 11
  • 11

Susi Singer

40,000 - 60,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Susi Singer
  • "Figur mit Krug," an Important and Unique Monumental Sculpture
  • painted Singer and with incised Wiener Werkstätte monogram
  • glazed earthenware


Wiener Werkstätte Showroom, New York, 1923


Leon V. Solon, "The Viennese Method for Artistic Display," The Architectural Record, March 1923, vol. 53, p. 271 (for the present lot illustrated in the Wiener Werkstätte showroom)
A. S. Levetus, "Vienna," The Studio, volume 87, January-June 1924, p. 347 (for a discussion of the artist)
L'Autriche à l'Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes, Paris, 1925
, p. 69 (for a related monumental sculpture presented at the Paris 1925 Exhibition for which Susi Singer won the gold medal)
L. W. Rochowanskl, "Die Plastikerin Susi Singer," Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, April 1929, pp. 402-406 (for a discussion of the artist)
Mathilde Flögl, Die Wiener Werkstätte 1903 - 1928. Modernes Kunstgewerbe und sein Weg, Vienna, 1929, n.p. (for the above sculpture)
Der Preis Der Schönheit: 100 Jahre Weiner Werkstätte, exh. cat., Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna, 2003, pp. 292-293 and 323 (for Susi Singer and the Wiener Werkstätte)

Catalogue Note

The present lot is referenced in the Photographs Archives of the Wiener Werkstätte, in the collections of the Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna, inventory no. WWF 108-42-1 (for the photograph) and no. KI 13017-1 (for the original gouache rendering). 

The Wiener Werkstättee (Viennese Workshops) of 1903 was famous because of the contributions from Viennese designers such as Josef Hoffmann and Dagobert Peche. However, that organization was quite different stylistically from the Wiener Werkstätte of 1920. When it was founded at the turn of the century, severe formality and functionalism were its characteristics. It had a brilliant sense of geometric design and decoration, and if there was color, it was a palette restricted to black and white. But by World War I everything began to change. Under the impact of Dada and Expressionism, the Wiener Werkstätte became noted for its parrot-like splashes of color, exaggerated movement, and bizarre wit. All this is registered in Susi Singer’s glazed sculpture of a slightly clad woman posing a jug on her head.

Although there were a number of ceramists associated with the later phase of the Wiener Werkstätte, all women, the two chief artists were Susi Singer and Wally Wieselthier. After studying under Michael Powolny and others, the twenty-two-year-old Singer joined the Wiener Werkstätte in 1917. Her specialty was humorous ceramic sculpture groups, from small-scale examples measuring six inches in height and made in limited series, to unique, monumental figures. A group of these monumental works, like the one presented here, won her a gold medal in 1925 at the Paris Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes. That same year, Singer left the Wiener Werkstätte to found her own pottery in Grunbach am Schneeburg.

The “original” Wiener Werkstätte sculptures, as opposed to those made in series, were carefully documented and registered.  As was customary, Singer made a sketch for it that survives in the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Vienna. There are only some slight changes: the ribbon planned for her neck was suppressed, more flowers were added to her slight costume, and the intense blue of her skirt was lessened. But how are we to understand this charming figure? She is wearing a short Greek chiton, also the costume of the young athletic woman on Robert Bonfils’ poster for the Paris 1925 fair. They are the young, socially liberated, vibrantly athletic women of the post-World War I era. And if plants were put in the jug (vessels on these sculptures often served as planters), then the resemblance would be even closer. Certainly the effect would be amusing, and that, after all, was what Susi Singer and the Wiener Werkstätte intended.

An intriguing question is the provenance of this unique sculpture. A number of large sculptures were displayed in the Wiener Werkstätte showroom in New York, which opened in 1922 under the direction of Joseph Urban. This particular ceramic figure was published in situ, in a central niche of the gallery, in an article that appeared in the March 1923 issue of The Architectural Record. When the gallery closed after only a few years, Urban retained much of the unsold material. Among Carol Ferranti’s papers are bills from 1975 for other items that she bought indirectly from Urban’s widow and sister-in-law, objects that were specified as having once been in the Wiener Werkstätte showroom. In all probability, this was also how she acquired this wonderful and whimsical Susi Singer sculpture.

—Martin Eidelberg, professor emeritus of art history at Rutgers University and an expert on 20th Century decorative arts