Franz Hofstoetter

Of all the artists and designers who collaborated with Loetz, the one best known to collectors of Bohemian glass is surely Franz Hofstoetter, the designer of most of the wonderful vases which gained Loetz a Grand Prix at the 1900 art nouveau Paris Exposition and propelled the company into the forefront of European glass manufacturers, spoken of in the same breath as Murano in Italy, Gallé in France or Tiffany in the USA.

Yet comparatively little is known about Franz Hofstoetter and his work outside of this collaboration with Loetz. Indeed, there has not even been general agreement regarding his name (Hofstötter = Hofstoetter, or Hofstätter = Hofstaetter). Even though the latter is the more common name in Austria (894 entries in the Austrian telephone directory compared with 49), it seems to be the rarer name - Hofstoetter - that is correct (* - see Footnote).

Frank Josef Hofstoetter was born in Munich on September 1, 1871, in what was then the Kingdom of Bavaria. He attended school in Munich, and then studied painting and sculpture at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1893. For the next three years he traveled in Europe.

His work for Loetz represented only a tiny part of Hofstoetter's artistic oeuvre; most of his career was spent designing and painting large-scale works for churches and public buildings. Here we will look briefly at some of the highlights.

In 1896, Hofstoetter collaborated with the painter Ferdinand Wagner in creating murals for Passau Town Hall, and he then designed the interior of the parish church of Ludwigsthal. Probably Hofstoetter employed Loetz glass for this commission, and it is likely to have been this collaboration that persuaded Max von Spaun to recruit Hofstoetter as his principle designer of Loetz glass for the Paris Exposition. In 1902-1903 Hofstoetter designed the interior of St. Vitus' church in Weichering, and between 1905 and 1912 he conceived and then executed the entire redesign of St. Josef's church in Weiden. In 1913 he was honored by the German Society for Christian Art for his work in St. Maximilian's church in Munich.

After World War I Hofstoetter largely withdrew from public life and moved back to Munich. During World War II much of his work was destroyed by Allied air raids, including the interior of St. Maximilian's. One of Hofstoetter's last works was an oil painting for the funeral parlor of Schlagenhof Cemetery in 1946/7, and it was here that he was buried after his death three days before Xmas, 1958.

Hofstoetter's first work for Loetz dates from 1899, and his name last appears in company invoices in 1912. But it is for his designs for the 1900 Paris Exposition that Hofstoetter is best remembered, and these are well represented in the Décors Index on this website; as well as winning the Grand Prix for Loetz, Hofstoetter also won a Silver Medal for his portraits of women, executed using glass obtained from Loetz.

 

I should like to thank Dr. Xaver Luderböck, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on Franz Hofstoetter in 1989, for his advice in preparing this article.

 

Footnote: *It should, however, be noted that Loetz factory ledgers use the 'Hofstaetter' spelling. As Franz Hofstoetter signed his own paintings, we can be absolutely certain that the 'oe' spelling is correct for the person described in this short biography. But we cannot completely eliminate the possibility that there were two glass artists with almost identical, unusual names active at the same time in the same area - Frank Hofstoetter, the painter and designer of church interiors, and Franz Hofstaetter, about whom we would know absolutely nothing except that he once designed glass for Loetz. This is highly unlikely, but it would be equally wrong to accuse Loetz of spelling his name wrongly in their ledgers. Hofstoetter's first work for Loetz dates from 1899, at a time when the standardization of spelling within the different branches of the German language was still in its infancy; a high degree of standardization was only reached in the young republic (modern Germany was not created until 1871) at the Orthographic Conference of 1901. Up until then, words - including names - were often written phonetically, and therefore spelt differently in different regions with different dialects. That is why, even today, there are so many different spellings of common names; the German equivalent of Smith - Schmidt - is also found as Schmitt, Schmid, Schmitz, Schmit and, rarely, Schmith, Smid and Smit. Future research may resolve the question as to whether Franz Hofstoetter and Franz Hofstaetter were one or two persons, but for the time being it seems more likely that there was only one artist who, in his early years, was not overly concerned with how his name was spelt.

 

 

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