Vally Wieselthier shows her artistic skill with Art Deco figurines

A powerful female artist

Valerie Wieselthier,  was born in Vienna in 1895.

She began her university studies in 1914 at the Vienna School of Applied Arts. While there, she had the opportunity to study a wide variety of artistic practices under the tutellage of notorious artists. Indeed, her studies began in the textile department. She then went on to study painting under Koloman Moser, after which she continued her multidisciplinary path, studying architecture under Josef Hoffmann and ceramics with Michael Powolny.

Her talent was quickly spotted by Josef Hoffmann, who was also the head of the Wiener Werkstätte at the time, and he urged her to join his organization. She joined the Wiener Werkstätte’s newly opened ceramics workshop in 1917. Its artistic director, Dagobert Peche, became a great artistic influence for her work.
Despite mockeries and references to the Wiener Wekstätte as “Wiener Weiberwirtschaft” – “Vienna Women’s Work”- Wieseltier’s work continued to be greatly successful and she continued to deliver commisionned works to the group. Mixing traditional forms with playful shapes and colors, she bacame well known for her humorous figurines and Art Deco surface designs. Indeed, the innovative expressiveness of her pieces, emphasized through a unique play with form and color, greatly contributed to the revitalization of the figurine genre.

However, her work wasn’t limited to the expressive colorful ceramic sculptures she created, which seemed to incarnate a vision of a modern woman, as she also designed tableware, textiles and glassware for local Vienese companies.

Most importantly despite being undermined and deemed “ceramic wife”, Wieselthier was amongst only a handful of pioneering female artists who were challenging the perfception of the feminine through their work. Female representations and scenes were no longer created fom a sensual imaginative masculine hand, they were being designed and drawn from a woman’s personnal insider experience. Thus new artistic lines behind the private and the public, the real and the imagined were slowly begining to get redrawn.
The delicate Art Deco figurine GIRL WITH THE MONKEY is a particularly impressive porcelain creation by the artist who, in 1925, designed the piece for the Porcelain Manufactory Augarten.Colorful and playful, the myterious story behind this figurine remains unknown. Thus, the interpretations behind it have run wild. Some believe that the talented female artist was humourlessly referencing the power of young beautiful women, particularly those who are being provided for by older men -alluded to with the incredibly human like kneeling monkey. Others see a more bohemeian scene of a dancer and her pet. While we will never know with exact certitude whether Wieselthier was trying to tell a story with her piece and potentially push us to reflect on gender in society, the artistry and elegance of her piece and the artist’s powerful role is unquestionnable.


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