Jacques and Jacqueline Groag, Architect and Designer: Two Hidden Figures of the Viennese Modern Movement
By Ursula Prokop
Translated by Jonee Tiedemann and Laura McGuire
Edited by Laura McGuire
June 2019. Hardcover.
272 pages, full color edition. Catalog of works, bibliography and an index.
9780999754436 | $39.95
Ursula Prokop’s meticulous history restores Jacques and Jacqueline Groag to their rightful places in the pantheon of Viennese Modernists. Prokop explores their individual careers in Vienna and Czechoslovakia, their early collaborations in the 1930s, their lives as Jewish émigrés, and the couple’s unique contributions in Britain for postwar exhibitions, monuments, furniture and textile design.
In Vienna, the Groags studied and worked within a circle of notables including Ludwig Wittgenstein, Adolf Loos, Paul Engelmann, Josef Hoffmann, and Franz Čižek, as well as others at the Wiener Werkstätte. Jacques Groag’s solutions to Vienna’s housing crisis, his painterly use of materials and color, his ingenious interior designs for space-saving furniture in small apartments and insights into the construction of the Wittgenstein house (he was the engineer) are discussed as well as Jacqueline Groag’s rise as an influential designer in Britain, creating textiles for Heal’s, British Rail, and airlines, and—as a Royal Designer for Industry in 1984—even a dress for the future-queen Elizabeth.
Full color edition with images of recently found extant works, previously unpublished photo documentations, as well as paintings and diaries from family archives. Supported by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.
The houses of Groag with the beautiful terraces impress because of their clever balance. They radiate comfort.
– Neue Freie Presse
The oeuvre of Jacques and Jaqueline Groag in architecture, interior architecture and textile design is of superb artistic quality. Ursula Prokop establishes and illuminates its roots in the 19th/early 20th century Viennese design tradition and its de facto connections with Viennese Modernism (Adolf Loos; Austrian Werkbund), as well as post-World War II British modernism. Thoroughly researched, objectively written, her book on the Groag couple is of serious interest to any student of 20th century modernist architecture and design and should, and will, be part of every academic or museum art historical library.
The book also documents another case of the terrible disruption of European cultural continuity, especially concerning Jewish artists and intellectuals, by Nazism and the Third Reich. The English language edition improves on the number and quality of documentary illustrations available in the German, and above all, it makes this important book accessible to a worldwide public of architects, designers, scholars and others interested in 20th century modernist architecture and design within its cultural context. I strongly acclaim the publication of this DoppelHouse Press book.
– Paul Wijdeveld, author of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Architect
The fact is, that [Jacques Groag] was, until the Nazis invaded Austria, one of the leading and most successful avant-garde architects in Vienna, where he was for many years engaged on work for important housing projects, public buildings and private houses. … In Britain in the absence of any architectural work, he was glad to supply himself to utility furniture. When, after the war, building activities were resumed, no one in Britain seemed to be aware any longer of his caliber as an architect, and Groag himself was much too modest a man to claim what, by rights, ought to have been his due.
– Sir Gordon Russell, SIA Journal
The Festival of Britain, the third and much the largest of the post-war design bonanzas is now regarded mainly as the start of the mass-public acceptance of the ‘modern’ design and architecture. … It opened up the possibilities inherent in designing and influenced the whole development of the modern multi-disciplinary design office. The Festival was British, extravagantly so … but it is ironic that many of the main designers of the Festival in the post-war periods had in fact arrived from abroad: Stefan Buzas, Jacques and Jacqueline Groag. … Where would British design have been without this foreign input?
– Fiona McCarthy/Patrick Nugents, Eye for Industry, Royal Designers 1936–1986
Jacques Groag´s living spaces exhibit an attitude that abstains from exaggerated “sober” motifs. Next to the purist cheerfulness that is at play, imagination rules, as well as delicate proportions, which are a mental rather than utilitarian matter. This architect has created living spaces that veritably dissolve in light. There is an impulse to open up walls and to take away their material bodies. The fact that Groag came from painting to architecture is apparent via the pictorial effects.
– Innendekoration (1932)
Among the buildings of the Werkbundsiedlung of 1932, the elegant house by architect Jacques Groag stood out in a positive way. Clever spatial economy succeeded in arranging the rooms so that they do not appear to be small and confined as is the case in one or the other home of the settlement, but spacious and airy. The sensation of the control of space and the strong impression of the room clearly marked the architect as a protege of Adolf Loos. Jacques Groag belongs to the younger Viennese architects whose style stands out because of its ingenious elegance and lightness.
– Österreichische Kunst (Austrian Art)
[Jacqueline Groag] constantly and ingeniously exploited the decorative possibilities of simple motifs, frequently in highly complex designs.
– House and Garden
[Jacqueline Groag lives] in a world of imagination. […] Starlight, with its interweaving of delicate chains, suggests to me marvellous and mysterious talks under the stars. I cannot remember designs for fabrics affecting me in this way before.
– Charles Reilly, Art and Industry
Few designers can move easily from abstract design to the representational and produce equally good work in both disciplines. Jacqueline Groag not only possesses this special gift but also the ability to abstract from life so that reality still exists in many of her patterns, but transformed by the wit and charm of her own personality.
– The Ambassador
Her work […] in the clarity of its line and colour as much as subject-matter, eluded received notions and never lost an element of child-like wonder, of day dreaming.
– Isabelle Anscombe, author of A Woman’s Touch
The art historian Ursula Prokop empathically describes the life of the Groags […] and characterizes their artistic achievements. The difficulty of finding sources – Groag’s buildings have been extensively changed, much of his furniture has been lost or is widely scattered – made the research for the present double biography at first slow and tedious. Nevertheless, the author has managed to convey a multifaceted and vivid picture of [the Groags’] contemporary history, as well as highlighting the influence that the continental avant-garde had on British design of the post-war years and the acceptance of a modern language of form. Thus, the work that emerged in the context of a research project carried out at the University of Vienna is not only a late tribute to the two designers in their old homeland, but also a contribution to the subject of the individual design history that goes beyond individuality.
– Dagmar Steffen, Bauwelt
Ursula Prokop offers an extensively researched book on the Viennese architect and designer couple Jacques and Jacqueline Groag that provides new information and new insight into the lives of two talented artists whose modernist work crossed over political, geographical, and cultural frontiers. […] The book is a well-documented overview of the couple’s lives and works. It introduces biographical material collected and preserved from many different collections, especially those of the two nephews, Mr. Jan Groag in New York and Dr. Willi Groag in Maanit, Israel. […] This is a pioneering work that rightfully places the artists Jacques and Jacqueline Groag within the field of Viennese Modernism.
– Elana Shapira, Centropa
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Ursula Prokop is a Viennese art and architecture historian who has written several books and regularly lectures on her research in the field of architecture and cultural history in the first half of the 20th century. She has contributed to numerous publications, collaborative studies, and research for exhibitions. In addition to writing the definitive biography and analysis of Jacques and Jacqueline Groag and their work, Das Architekten- und Designer-Ehepaar Jacques and Jacqueline Groag: Zwei vergessene Künstler der Wiener Moderne (Böhlau 2005), she is the author of a biography of Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein (Böhlau 2003), acclaimed by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Kunstmarkt as a biography that “makes the past come to life in an exciting way.” The Neue Zürcher Zeitung called the Stonborough-Wittgenstein book one “of high merit” and “insightful into the lives of the Wittgenstein family,” while the review from the Süddeutsche Zeitung found the book exemplary for providing “new contours” not just to the Wittgenstein family story and Margaret, one of the more famous sitters for Gustav Klimt, but to the picture of early-20th-century bourgeoisie life. Prokop’s earlier biography of controversial architect Rudolf Perco (Rudolf Perco 1884 – 1942: From the Architecture of Red Vienna to Nazi Megalomania; Böhlau 2001) was the first comprehensive biography of this model student of Otto Wagner and Prix-de-Rome winner of 1910. It explored his adventuresome unbuilt designs, his descent into a utopian fantasy of state control, his disenchantment with the Nazis and subsequent disenfranchisement, leading to his suicide in 1942. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung found the book to have “a wealth of facts” and to be “meticulously researched.”
Laura McGuire is Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Hawaii’s School of Architecture in Manoa. She specializes in early- and mid-century architecture and design history with a combined Ph.D. in those fields from University of Texas, Austin. A 2019 Fulbright Scholar and a Richard Plaschka grantee from 2011–13 in Austria, she has spent the last decade working on exhibitions, articles, book chapters, and other editorial projects that reflect on Vienna’s unique cultural contributions through immigrant and exiled cultural figures, including designer Paul T. Frankl, architect/artist Frederick Kiesler, and philosopher Otto Neurath.
Jonee Tiedemann is a certified translator and interpreter from Germany who lives in Argentina, has studied in the United States, and works between the three languages: German, Spanish and English. He specializes in architecture and design books, as well as self-published German indie literature.