In Croatia the term Secession is used to refer to the new artistic movement the borderlines of which are marked by the Vienna Secession of 1898 and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. In various countries of Europe it was called by different styles – Art Nouveau, Jugendstil and Liberty, for instance. In essence, the style had the ambition to split the young from the old and to create a new young art. In the shaping of living space, practicality was stressed, together with comfort, fineness of execution and simplicity, and the style appeared in two variants – floral and geometrical. The examples of furniture exhibited present both versions, and most of them are done from drawings of leading foreign and domestic architects. One of the founders of the Viennese Secession, the architect Josef Hoffmann, designed flower stand and stool (1898 and 1899), and he is also attributed an armchair and serving tables produced in the Austrian firm of Jacob und Joseph Kohn. Another serving table (1905/1906) was made in the famed Gebrüder Thonet firm, to a design by architect and joint founder of the Secession, Josef Maria Olbrich. A central place in the room is occupied by a desk designed by prominent Belgian architect and theorist Henry van de Velde.
Examples of furniture done to drawings by Croatian architects, often owned by the architects themselves or distinguished citizens, are very important for cultural history, as are items of furniture made in Croatia. This group includes a flower stand painted white once owned by Croatian architect Ignjat Fischer. It was done in line with the constructivist design characteristic of the Wiener Werkstätte, and was probably part of the furnishing of the one-time Zagreb Sanatorium in Klaićeva Street, designed by Fischer. The corner sofa part of the study of Zagreb architect Martin Pilar was made in one of the biggest furniture works in Croatia, the Zagreb firm of Bothe and Ehrmann, which was at work from the second half of the 19th century.
Neoclassicist elements can be seen in the design of the displayed armchair from the Zagreb villa of famed pharmacist and entrepreneur Eugen Feller in Jurjevska Street. The furniture was done in the Munich furniture factory of M. Ballin to a design by the architect Mathias Feller.
New methods and techniques in the production of Art Nouveau glass are illustrated by objects done in the best known world glassworks, as well as original productions by Emile Gallć, Louis Comfort Tiffany and the firm of Johan Loetz Witwe. Croatian glass production is represented by the products of the glassworks in Osredek by Samobor. The exhibited metal objects belong to the floral form of Art Nouveau.
On the whole these are productions by big factories – the German Würtembergische Metallwarenfabrik, its Austrian or Vienna daughter firm Albert Kohler, the Viennese firm Argentor Werke Rust & Hetzel, Austria’s Berndorf and Germany’s Orivita; their products were sold by many Croatian merchants for luxury goods, mainly goldsmiths and clock-makers, who represented these firms in the country.
Opulence of form and diversity of techniques in Art Nouveau ceramics are shown by the platter on show, from the famed Hungary Zsolnay factory, the vase of Alf Wallander produced in a Swedish factory in Lidköping, a Berlin coffee set the forms of which imitated iris blooms. An allegorical figure of Winter represents the typical production of Viennese ceramic studios. The figure after a model of Johanna Meier Michel was made in the Wiener kunstkeramische Werkstätte Busch & Ludescher. The stove tile of the Zagreb firm of Kallina illustrates what domestic industry was capable of. Kallina stoves at the beginning of the 20th century could compete quality-wise with the same kind of products from Bohemia and Germany found on the domestic market.