Hermann Obrist was a Swiss sculptor and designer. He was most active in Germany. A leading figure in the evolution of Jugendstil in Munich, Obrist was inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement, which he had experienced when he visited Britain in 1897.
He studied medicine and natural sciences and, from 1888, ceramics. Subsequently, he ended up studying sculpture in Paris. In 1886, prompted by a vision of a radiant city, he turned to art. In 1892, he settled in Florence, concentrating on marble techniques. In 1895, he established a studio for embroidery in Munich. Following the lead of Koloman Moser’s and Josef Hoffmann’s Wiener Werkstatte, in 1897, Obrist, Peter Behrens, Bruno Paul, Bernhard Pankok, and Richard Riemerschmid founded the Miinchner Vereinigte Werkstatten fur Kunst im Handwerk (The Munich United Workshops for Art in Handwork). It aimed to sell everyday objects designed by Modern artists. Obrist was one of the leading designers of the Jugendstil and designed furniture and textiles.
“I sought to create art that harmoniously blended nature and design, where the organic and the abstract could coexist in perfect unity. The flowing lines and intricate patterns in my work were an homage to the beauty and complexity of the natural world.
Obrist’s work often featured flowing lines, sinuous curves, and intricate patterns inspired by nature. He embraced new materials and techniques, including wrought iron, bronze, and ceramic, and incorporated them into his sculptures, furniture, and decorative objects. Obrist was also fascinated by the potential of the emerging field of electricity and incorporated electrical elements into some of his designs.
In 1896, he gained critical attention when he displayed 35 embroideries, demonstrating how natural forms were reinterpreted more abstractly. His ability to seamlessly blend natural elements with abstract and stylized motifs captivated audiences and left a lasting impact on the world of art and design. Obrist’s influence extended beyond his immediate circle, with his ideas and aesthetic principles spreading throughout Europe and inspiring subsequent generations of artists and designers.
Obrist displayed furniture at the 1900 Paris Exposition in Riemerschmid’s Room for the Art Lover. He went on to influence the curriculum of the Lehr and Versuchs-Atelier für Angewandte und Freie Kunst (Teaching and Study Studio for Applied and Free Art), founded in 1903, at the School of Applied Arts of Wilhelm Debschitz. Obrist continued as a prolific writer, teacher, and propagandist in architecture.
Hermann Obrist died on February 26, 1927, in Munich, leaving behind a significant body of work that continues to inspire and influence artists and designers today. His contributions to the Art Nouveau movement and his innovative approach to design have cemented his place in the history of art and design.
Oxford University Press. (2004). A Dictionary of Modern Design (1st ed.).