The Early years
Very little is known about Johann Loetz, the man who gave his name to the glassworks, aside from the fact that he was born in Austria and founded the Loetz glassworks in 1840 in Klostermühle, Bohemia, an area in what is now the Czech Republic.
History of Loetz Glassworks
The Loetz glassworks was made up of several other acquired companies; the glassworks of Goldbrunn (acquired in 1824) and Annatal near Bergreichenstein (acquired in 1838.)
When Johann Loetz died in 1844 he left behind a widow, Susanne, who came into ownership of the glassworks around 1851 and renamed it Johann Loetz Witwe (Witwe is German for widow). She enjoyed considerable success over the following two decades, producing crystal and painted glass amongst other things.
In 1879 the glassworks were taken over by Max Ritter von Spaun, Susanne’s grandson. He brought in Eduard Prochaska, a technical specialist who was instrumental in modernising the glassworks and installing two Sibert gas furnaces with eleven melting pots each. This development meant that by 1889 Loetz was established as one of the leading glassmakers in the region.
Von Spaun died in 1908 and in 1909 von Spaun’s son, Maximilian Robert, took over. Things went downhill and bankruptcy was declared in 1911. The factory was still able to operate, but in 1914 there was a huge fire and of course the start of the First World War.
After the war, the popularity of coloured opal glass offered a glimmer of hope, but the glassworks was not well funded so they resorted to producing dated and low-quality cameo glass and animals.
The depression of the 1920’s and two further fires meant that by 1939 the company was really running out of money. After the Second World War they found themselves behind the Iron Curtain, Loetz was nationalised and in 1947 they closed for good.
Loetz were pioneers of the surface technique known as Marmorisierte. This style of marbled glass gave the appearance of imitating various semi-precious stones in the surfaces of bowls and vases. This style won Loetz awards at the Paris World’s Exposition in 1889. At the same time their Octopus pieces, white curlicue lines, over a darker, mottled surface came about.
Their Phänomen series of designs are perhaps some of their most well known, the main characteristics being the rippled or featherlike designs that can be seen on the surface of the glass. This effect was achieved using very hot molten glass and wrapping hot glass threads around a hot base. Pulling the threads on the surface created waves and many other designs. All of this work was completed whilst the glass was still pliable. In 1898 Loetz patented the Phänomen technique.
At the end of the Art Nouveau era Loetz produced their Tango series, two-toned pieces created in single colours with simple surfaces and contrasting lip wraps or handles. Michael Powolny created some of their best Tangos.
Where can you find Loetz Glasswork
We have a variety of Loetz glassware available at our Portobello Road gallery. The collection can be seen online here, or in person by appointment.