Thursday, 4 November 2010

Rug Designs of Patriz Huber

Illustration: Patriz Huber. Rug design, c1901.

The German designer Patriz Huber produced work across a number of disciplines, mostly those directly involved with interiors such as furniture, ceramics, metal work, embroidery and rug design. However, he also produced a fairly substantial amount of jewellery work and a small amount of architecture. Much was expected from this unique and innovative designer who at the turn of the twentieth century was at the start of what would have proved to have been a genuinely illustrious career as one of the leaders of German design. Unfortunately he was to commit suicide in 1902 at the tragically young age of 24.

The six rug designs used to illustrate this article were produced very near the end of Huber's life. They show a sense of maturity that belies the age of the designer. So much so that many of his contemporaries celebrated that maturity by including him in a number of projects and events that should have been beyond him. He was, for example, one of the early residents of the Darmstadt Artists Colony, along with the likes of Paul Burck, Hans Christiansen, Joseph Maria Olbrich and Peter Behrens.

Illustration: Patriz Huber. Rug design, c1901.

One of the main boosts to Huber's career was the championing of his design and decorative work by Alexander Koch the publisher of some of the most important German magazines of the period such as Fachblatt fur Innen-Dekoration (Journal of Interior Decoration) first published in 1890 and Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration (German Art and Decoration) published from 1897 onwards. It was actually Koch that helped to persuade Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse to set land aside for the building of the Darmstadt Artists Colony in 1899. Koch was also involved in a whole range of initiatives set to expand the parameters of interior design and decoration, from the competition for the now famous Das Haus eines Kunstfreundes (House for an Art Lover) which was both sponsored and publicised in his Innen-Dekoration magazine, to advisor for the Turin International Exhibition of 1902.

Illustration: Patriz Huber. Rug design, c1901.

Koch's championing of Huber cannot be underplayed as it was his initial winning of a competition held by Koch's Innen-Dekoration magazine in 1898 that first brought the design work of Huber to the wider attention of Germany. Koch was an unfailing supporter and even after Huber left the Darmstadt Artists' Colony, a particular pet project close to the publisher's heart, he still received popular support from his widely-read and extremely influential magazines.

It is difficult to place Huber's rug design work within a specific area within the history of European decorative arts. Although producing much of his work during the Art Nouveau period, or the Jugendstil in Germany, it is hard to place the design work even in such a broad and comprehensive subject as the Art Nouveau movement. However, some of Huber's work was more conventionally placed, his furniture output in particular, so he cannot necessarily be placed as a maverick Art Nouveau designer along the lines of the Italian Carlo Bugatti for example.

Illustration: Patriz Huber. Rug design, c1901.

It is perhaps to the more unusual elements of his jewellery design that it is best to look for some correllation with this particularly innovative rug pattern work. Although many of Huber's jewellery examples seem very much in the mould of standard Art Nouveau fair, there are some peculiarly individual examples that hint to at least some elements that can be found within these rug examples. Some of the pattern work shown here resembles a range of simplified and quite complex motifs that are strictly symmetrically based and are either repeated once or sometimes twice, both vertically and horizontally, giving a much more complex approach to rug design than is perhaps usual for this period.

It would have been interesting to have known how Huber would have developed creatively over a full life rather than the severely foreshortened one he lived. He was known as both a craftsman and an architect, as well as that of an interior designer and applied artist. He left the Darmstadt Artists' Colony in 1901 along with Paul Burck and Hans Christiansen and eventually ended his life living in the capital Berlin where he was busy with a range of projects. His ambitions were wide-ranging and included projects that ranged from future architectural interests to that of designing a piano.

Illustration: Patriz Huber. Rug design, c1901.

Suicides are often hard to fathom as they cannot always be identified with such signifiers as long term depression and low self-esteem. At the very end of his life Huber was still working actively and had positive and long term projects and plans involving a number of individuals and companies. Alexander Koch, faithful to his creative discovery till the very end, published an upbeat letter that had been produced by Huber barely a month before he ended his life. This was to counter some particularly snide remarks and claims that the designer had committed suicide due to some form of artistic pride and career frustration. If the future of Huber's career had included even partial elements produced in this range of rug design examples, it would have been a truly remarkable body of work.

Illustration: Patriz Huber. Rug design, c1902.

Reference links:
Patriz Huber: Ein Mitglied der Darmstadter Kunstlerkolonie
Hesse: Darmstadt Artists' Colony, Rothaarsteig, Wartberg Culture, Hessian, Fischbach, University of Marburg, Rheingau, Bergstra├če, Atlantis
Modern Style: Jugendstil/Art Nouveau 1899-1905
Schmuck in Deutschland und Osterreich, 1895-1914: Symbolismus, Jugendstil, Neohistorismus (Materialien zur Kunst des 19. Jahrhunderts) (German Edition)
Jugendstil: Webster's Timeline History, 1863 - 2007
Jugendstil Guertelschlie├Żen / Art Nouveau Buckles: Sammlung Kreuzer / The Kreuzer Collection
Jugendstil & Werkkunst
Art nouveau in Munich: Masters of Jugendstil from the Stadtmuseum, Munich, and other public and private collections
Schmuck-Kunst im Jugendstil At Nouveau Jewellery

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