Reacting to the spectre of plentiful machine made goods of the
industrial revolution the Englishman William Morris emphasized the
craftsmanship of the individual, strongly influencing the arts and
crafts movement both at home as well as in the US
(see Brown University honors thesis on "Manufacturing Practices of the Late 19th and Early 20th Century").
By contrast on the continent, however, the Germanic sister to art
nouveau, termed jugendstil (after the popular style of the design
magazine Jugend) was evidently less concerned with the purity of every
object.The jugendstil movement instead embraced factory made goods and emphasized mass
produced objects incorporating floriform and other organic shapes. By
virtue of the method of their production these goods must have been
among the first affordable simultaneously
artful and practical items for everyday use to find their way into the
homes of the new middle class.
Designs from this period share in common a concern for the beauty of nature including especially the female form and those of flowering plants. Also often represented are the sinuous or whiplash curves taken from vines. (see Motifs under the Products tab)
As with any period of time, company, or even designer to classify is to simplify. The art nouveau movement was not a unitary phenomenon and although it seems obvious that artists working in France, Germany, America and Britain shared some common purpose, sytlistic differences are also often obvious. Labelling Orivit as an art nouveau or jugendstil firm does not mean that all items produced fit this categorization. Although many Orivit items were obviously exceptional examples of the art nouveau/ jugendstil intent it is evident that not all items produced by Orivit can be characterized as belonging to the movement. A remarkable number of the pre-1905 objects, however, do in fact creatively incorporate natural design elements typical of the period.
Orivit of Cologne, Germany
Amongst other manufacturers of art nouveau objects for everyday use the German company Orivit of Cologne, founded in 1895, stands out. No other firm produced as many lovely designs in so short a time. The company was founded in 1895 by Ferdinand Hobert Schmitz who had purchased a pre-existing bronze and metal work firm near Cologne, Germany. In 1898 the word Orivit was listed as a trademark referring to a new luxury pewter line and Orivit items won acclaim garnering a gold medal at the Paris World Exposition of 1900. In 1900 the name of Schmitz's firm was changed to Orivit. The firm employed the revolutionary Huber press which evidently allowed metal to be pressed into the desired form using a highly pressurized system.
Both Hermann Gradl and Georges Charles Coudray are known to have designed pieces for Orivit. Theo Blum, Georg Graseggar, Walter Scherf, Vicor Heinrich Seifert, and Johann Christian Kroner are also known to have been associated with the company.
Orivit products were produced for domestic trade in Germany and sold abroad. In England Orivit was sold by the famous firm Liberty and objects marked "made in Germany" likely made their way into customers' hands in this way. (see FCR article by Paul Carter Robinson)
Like the art nouveau movement itself the company as it originally existed was shortlived; bankrupt in 1905 the firm was purchased by the larger WMF which continues to produce silver plated objects today. WMF continued to produce objects with the Orivit label perhaps treating the company as a subsidiary or using the "brand" on objects of its own manufacture. Direction of the company fell to Georg Friedrich Schmitt (text in German) in 1906. Schmitt brought many designs from the Orion company (which he previously ran) and the same or similar objects may occasionally be found with either mark.
Oddly, after Orivit was taken over in 1905 by WMF, a company well known for its own art nouveau/ jugendstil design, items produced often retained some superficial reference to nature (for instance models 2708, 2713) but lost the grace for which the original Orivit company is still recognized. This disjunction between incorporation of the sinuous line into the entire object and an increasingly simplified reference to natural objects is evident even to the casual observer when reviewing the Orivit items when arranged chronologically/ nurmerically.Evidently the last item number to appear in the Orivit catalogue of 1904, and therefore probably one of the last to have been designed within the original workshops, was model number 2662. This may help to explain the abrupt change in style noticeable when reviewing items arranged by production number before and after the WMF takeover, presumably due to changes in the design staff. To my eye the later pieces which are not of pre-1905 Orivit or Orion design are rarely as attractive as those designed before. However, many of the original Orivit items appear to have been produced for several years after the WMF takeover, in some cases as late as 1925.
As further historical information becomes available I will addend this page. Please contact me at:
with comments, questions or corrections. At the moment I am most interested in finding a copy of original Orivit catalogues to post online.
Thank you to Daan and Nicole of www.Zanida.nl for their aid in compiling some of the information on this page.