Glass: In the 14th century, glass works were established in regions of Austria where quartz (raw material) and firewood were found in plentiful supply, for example in the Vienna Woods, the Lower Austrian region of Waldviertel (Altnagelberg), in Upper Austria and the Central Alps. "Wasserglas", greenish-yellowish in colour, (similar to Bohemian "forest glass") was produced in the early days. In the Middle Ages, many landowners set up their own glass works (glass-blowing) on their estates.
In the 16th century, glass manufacturing experienced its first upturn and became an important economic factor, particularly in Lower Austria and Tirol. In the glass works at Hall in Tirol (founded in 1534) high quality, colourless glass, similar to Venetian "cristallo", was produced for the first time in Central Europe. In Innsbruck Archduke Ferdinand II established glass works which produced glassware for the court. In the style of the late Renaissance, thin glasses were decorated by diamond-point engraving, cold-painted with red and green colours and gilded. These glass works were shut down in 1592.
With the rise of mercantilism, Bohemian and Austrian glass works achieved international fame. About 70 trading companies brought Austrian glass to numerous capitals and important cities in Europe and overseas.
In the Baroque period, the art of glass making in Austria experienced a new upturn. The new style called for thick-walled glasses cut in high-relief engraving (from about 1700: intaglio). In the first half of the 18th century, glasses were gilded and coloured with black enamel pigments. F. Egermann, a gifted craftsman born in Schluckenau (Sluknov, Czech Republic), in 1777, designed the most outstanding and exclusive glasses: "agate glass", "crystal glass" with innovative matt polish, "marbled glass", "silver-etched glass", "Perlmuttglas" (mother-of-pearl) and "Biskuitglas". His ruby glass was made without the addition of mint gold to the raw materials. Glassware produced by Austrian glassmakers became one of the most important factors in foreign trade. During the reign of Maria Theresia, J. Strasser, a Viennese goldsmith, produced glitzy glass stones ("strass" or paste) for costume jewellery. During the late 18th century, however, it was the Bohemian and Venetian glass makers whose works became popular in the Austrian Monarchy.
During the Empire period, some of the most precious pieces of Austrian glass were made by J. J. Mildner at Gutenbrunn in the Waldviertel region. His famous Zwischengoldglaeser (gold sandwich glasses), characteristic of the Waldviertel region, were both technically proficient, as well as beautiful works of art. During the Biedermeier period, the art of glassmaking in Austria was refined and this period is therefore considered the Golden Age of glassmaking in Austria. As in the Empire period, mainly polished, cut and coloured glasses, and above all, drinking vessels with transparent or opaque painting were manufactured during the Biedermeier period. Noted artists of that period include G.S. Mohn and A. Kothgasser, who produced some of the most beautiful enamelled glasses, J. Haberl at Wiener Neustadt and E. Grillwitzer in Graz.
After the introduction of coal-fired furnaces, glass manufacturers set up their glass works near coal pits (Oberdorf-Voitsberg, Koeflach etc.). Even though competition was very keen, due to significantly cheaper pressed glass produced in the United States (around 1830), Austrian glass was in very high demand on the world market. Under Emperor Franz Joseph, glass exports were eleven times higher than imports. Especially high in demand were hollow glassware, table glass, mirror glass, light bulbs, lamps, flasks and bottles as well as glasses and fashion jewellery from the town of Gablonz (Jablonec, Czech Republic). L. Lobmeyr brought glass making back from a highly industrialised level to a more artistic one. His precious pieces and his distinctive "Lobmeyr style" are considered the epitome of Viennese style. From 1840, J. Riedel developed a type of yellowish and green iridescent glasses, uranium glass, which became very popular, especially amongst the Viennese. The reformatory endeavours of R. von Eitelberger led to the opening of specialised schools where glass makers were trained in draughtsmanship and modelling. The World Trade Fair in Vienna in 1873 was an excellent opportunity for Viennese glass makers to present their work and yet another proof of the leading position of the Austrian glass industry on the European market. When, in the late 19th century, the Vienna Arts and Crafts Museum was founded, it became a forum for everyone interested or involved in glass making.
From 1906, the most important glass artists were closely associated with the Wiener Werkstaetten, among them O. Prutscher, J. Hoffmann, D. Peche, K. Moser). During World War I, the architect O. Strnad designed a simple, rectangular tumbler with a thick, highly polished bottom. This form was further developed by A. Loos and became a revolutionary concept for the international glass industry.
Up until the 20th century the production of optical devices was of major importance in Austria (above all, due to inventions by S. Ploessl, L. Lobmeyr, J. Petzval, and P. W. F. Voigtlaender). Nowadays, companies like Swarovski in Tirol are still well known all around the world.
Glass works in Tirol, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Styria, the province of Salzburg and Vienna ( Glass Industry) still enjoy an excellent reputation. In recent years it has not only been the large-scale production sites that have produced well designed, high quality glass, but also small-scale businesses in traditional glassmaking regions like the Waldviertel.
Literature#I. Schlosser, Das alte Glas, 1956; W. Neuwirth, Loetz Austria 1905-1918, exhibition catalogue., Linz 1986; idem, Glas 1950-1960, exhibition catalogue, Salzburg 1987; idem, Vom Biedermeier zum Art Deco, 1993.