Moser is a key figure in the birth of modernity in design, his own work spanning furniture, metal, glassware, and more. A founder of the Vienna Secession (along with Hoffmann, Olbrich and Klimt), a disagreement in policy led him and his close colleague Hoffmann to start the influential design/craft workshops Wiener Werkstätte. He collaborated as a junior partner with Wagner (on a number of buildings) as well as with Olbrich. Mahler invited him to a dinner and introduced his wife-to-be Alma, for whom Moser had made a brooch with a pearl for each of his own twelve unaccepted marriage proposals.
Hoffmann was a major figure in modernist design; his work at its best showed a clarity of form and purpose, informed by high craft ideals, and helped pave the way for the industrial aesthetic of the 20th C. Loos was a schoolmate, then fellow architectural student. Wagner was an influential teacher; Olbrich was met working in Wagner’s office, and these three, together with Klimt and Moser, founded the Vienna Secession. Hoffmann and his close colleague Moser then left to found the Wiener Werkstätte. The young Le Corbusier met him while visiting Vienna, while Mackintosh and Ashbee were met on a visit to Britain, .
One of the most influential dress designers of the 20th C, Chanel brought a modernist look (classy uncluttered timeless practicality) to womens’ fashion. She mixed with a range of cultural notables, including Stravinsky (whom she helped, and may have had an affair with), Diaghilev (whom she designed for and who got her out of more than one financial hole), Lipchitz and Radiguet. Picasso, Moreau and Renoir were friends (she designed for Renoir’s masterpiece ‘La Règle du Jeu’), Dalí and Visconti guests. Reverdy was certainly among her lovers, though her own accounts of her life are notoriously free with the truth.
An important figure in 20th C furniture design, Perriand was first known for her designs in steel and glass, and later for her use of organic materials. Inspired by Corbusier’s writings, his initial dismissiveness proved a challenge to be overcome – she spent a decade working in his office, and continued to collaborate into the 1960’s. Léger – she took a studio above his – was a close friend and collaborator on politically-engaged projects. Other close friends included Calder and Miró (her daughter detected their influence). Prouvé was another longstanding collaborator, her friend Noguchi more briefly so. Niemeyer was befriended in Brazil, Yanagi in Japan.
It is hard to over-estimate Behrens’ importance; noted as a pioneer of modern architecture as well as of corporate identity, he should be equally celebrated as a visionary industrial designer – a field he more or less invented. Kandinsky and he became friends as young members of the Munich Secession (he later invited Kandinsky to head up a painting programme in Düsseldorf). Muthesius, Olbrich and Riemerschmid were among fellow-founders of the Deutscher Werkbund. But sometimes cited as the greatest of all his products – all young assistants in his office – are three giants of design and design education, Corbusier, Mies and Gropius.
Someone described the Themersons — Franciszka and her husband Stefan — as an experimental orchestra of art-forms; her significance is as one half of that unique team, collaborating on films, on publishing, and on the offbeat expression of ideas. They met Lye, Grierson and Moholy-Nagy on a preliminary visit to London, and showed films of Lye’s and Moholy’s back in Warsaw. They moved to Paris (where they met Queneau, whose work they were later to publish), and finally settled in London, where Schwitters — almost unknown in Britain — visited them, and sent Christmas-cards.
Cassandre, as Adolphe Mouron was professionally known, is known for his innovative and influential poster designs. Savignac (who was barely younger), François and Vostell all worked as his assistant — Savignac meeting him by chance, François first studying in Cassandre’s school before working in his studio. Cassandre spent time with Bayer, Loewy, de Chirico and Dalí in New York (where Brodovitch commisioned magazine work from him). Back in Paris, he did stage designs for Lifar, the collaboration extending to storylines. Cendrars, a friend, wrote a preface for him, while Reverdy, a correspondent, sat for his portrait.
She met Arp at an exhibition of his, thus beginning a lifelong professional and personal involvement. A participant in Cabaret Voltaire events, she met Tzara, Janco and Richter, as well as performing with Wigman and Laban (with whom she studied). Lissitzky, Höch, van Doesburg and Moholy-Nagy were all met on holiday in Austria (the following summer was spent with Höch and Schwitters). The Arps were close to Ball and Hemmings, while the Delaunays became friends for life. Kandinsky, Miró and Duchamp were among other Paris friends. Her last New Year’s Eve was spent at Bill’s, where she died of gas poisoning.
Rietveld is known particularly for two modernist classics — a chair and a house. Among de Stijl colleagues, Oud was a good friend (probably united by the impossibility of getting on for long with the dominating van Doesburg), while Mondrian and he probably never met, despite living quite close to one another. Van der Leck had been met through one of Rietveld’s architecture teachers. Rietveld was one of the founding members of an international forum initiated by Corbusier and Giedion, attending the first meeting with Stam and Chareau among others. Stam and Lissitzky together visited him at the Schröder House.
Van der Leck was for a time van Doesburg’s lieutenant in de Stijl (which in retrospect looks more a coherent movement than the one-man-bandwagon it really was), though disagreements took their toll, as they also did between van der Leck and Mondrian. He worked with Berlage, but the arrangement (foisted on both) suited neither. Oud, van Doesburg and he formed ‘de Sphinx’ prior to their involvement in de Stijl. Rietveld, more temperamentally similar than other de Stijl colleagues, was a friend. Artistic poverty was not to van der Leck’s taste — following his fellow-student van Dongen to Paris, he only lasted 2 weeks before returning home.