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Joseph Maria Olbrich
Joseph Maria Olbrich 1908.jpg
Personal information
Name Joseph Maria Olbrich
Nationality Austrian
Birth date December 22, 1867(1867-12-22)
Birth place Opava, Czech Republic
Date of death August 8, 1908 (aged 40)
Place of death Düsseldorf, Germany
Buildings Secession hall
Awards Rome Prize (1893)

Joseph Maria Olbrich (22 December 1867–8 August 1908) was an Austrian architect, co-founder of the Vienna Secession artistic group.

Olbrich was born in Troppau, Austria (today Opava in the Czech Republic). Olbrich was born the third child of Edmund and Aloisia Olbrich. He had two sisters who died before his birth, and two younger brothers John and Edmund. His father was a prosperous confectioner and wax manufacturer who owned a brick works, which is where Olbrichs interest in the construction industry has its early origin.

Olbrich studied architecture at the Wiener Staatsgewerbeschule and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna where he won several prizes. In 1893, he started working for Otto Wagner and probably did the detailed construction for most of Wagner's Wiener Stadtbahn (Metropolitan Railway) buildings.

In 1897, Otto Wagner, Gustav Klimt, Olbrich, Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser founded the Vienna Secession artistic group. Olbrich designed their exhibition building, the famous Secession Hall, which became the movement's landmark. In 1899, Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse, founded the Darmstadt Artists' Colony and hired Olbrich among other leading artists to participate in the planning and execution of exhibition buildings. Olbrich gained Hessian citizenship in 1900 and was appointed to a professorship by the Grand Duke. In 1903, he married Claire Morawe.

In the following years, Olbrich executed the most diverse architectural commissions and experimented in other fields of applied arts and design. He designed pottery, furniture, several book bindings, and musical instruments. His contribution to the Louisiana Exhibition in St. Louis were highly recognized, and he was appointed corresponding member of the American Institute of Architects, probably at the instigation of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Shortly after his daughter Marianne's birth on July 19, 1908, Olbrich died from leukemia in Düsseldorf on August 8, aged 40. He remains among the World's most respected and influential architects. His architectural works, especially his exhibition buildings for the Vienna and Darmstadt Secessions, have had a strong influence on the development of the Art Nouveau Style.



  • Latham, Ian (1980). Joseph Maria Olbrich. New York: Rizzoli. ISBN 0847802302.  
  • Ulmer, Renate (2006) (in German). Joseph Maria Olbrich. München: Deutscher Kunstverlag. ISBN 3422066594.  
Ornaments by Olbrich at Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station
Secession building


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