Richard Teschner

Richard Teschner, 1910
© Klimt-Foundation, Wien

Universal artist Richard Teschner was mostly active as a graphic artist, artisan, and stage designer. He conceived innovative puppet theater plays and was one of the most remarkable exponents of Jugendstil. He lived in Vienna from 1909 and in 1911 married Emma Bacher, with whom he shared many of the contacts in the Viennese avant-garde scene and spent the summer holidays at Villa Paulick on the Attersee.

Richard Teschner was born on 22 March 1879 in Karlsbad (now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic). The family moved to Leitmeritz in 1884, where his father started his own business as a lithographer and Teschner attended elementary and secondary school. From 1895 he studied at the Imperial-Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and from 1900 at the School of Arts and Crafts of the Imperial-Royal Austrian Museum of Art and Industry in Vienna, where he attended painting classes under Karl Karger and Felician von Myrbach.

Teschner moved back to Leitmeritz in 1901 and set up a studio in his father’s printing shop, where he familiarized himself with various printing techniques and developed the innovative technique of “hand tone etching” before going to Prague in 1902. He frequented the Prague art and literary scene and worked primarily as a graphic artist, but from 1903 on also began to devote himself intensively to the puppet theater. Teschner traveled to Bohemian countryside, Germany, and Austria, participated in exhibitions, won prizes, and established contacts with artists and clients, such as Max von Spaun, the owner of the Johann Loetz Witwe glass factory in Klostermühle, as well as the Wiener Werkstätte and Fritz Waerndorfer in Vienna.

In 1905, Teschner presided over the Association of German Visual Artists in Bohemia together with his long-time friend and colleague Karl Wilfert the Younger. In February 1908, the association organized the “Ausstellung deutscher Künstler in Böhmen” [“Exhibition of German Artists in Bohemia”] in Prague, in which Teschner was represented next to Gustav Klimt and the latter’s Faculty Painting of Jurisprudence (1903/07, burned in 1945 at Immendorf Castle). Only a few months later, Teschner exhibited at the “Kunstschau Wien” in June 1908, which had been initiated by Klimt, among others. That summer he also conceived the complete design for the play Pelléas und Mélisande at the Deutsches Theater in Prague, including stage sets, decorations, costumes, and posters.

In 1909 he moved to Vienna, where he worked for the Wiener Werkstätte and later also participated in its most important project, the Stoclet Palace in Brussels. Moreover, he produced glass mosaics, children’s book illustrations, worked as a theater and set designer, and designed the magazine Der Merker.

In August 1910, Teschner sojourned in Seewalchen on the Attersee together with Otto Prutscher, in the house of the wealthy court cabinetmaker Friedrich Georg Paulick. For the Villa Paulick, he designed the so-called Household God (1910, private collection), a soapstone figure that was published as “Frau B.’s household idol” in the magazine Deutsche Arbeit in March that year. Richard Teschner presumably met “Frau B.” – Emma Bacher, Friedrich Georg Paulick’s daughter –either through the Galerie Miethke or in the context of the “Kunstschau Wien 1908.” She was the widow of the jeweler Paul Bacher, the later owner of Galerie Miethke, which she took over after her husband’s death in 1907. The families Paulick, Flöge, and Klimt, bound both by family ties and friendship, spent their summer vacations together on the Attersee, where Emma documented many a get-together as an amateur photographer. On these occasions, she also took two photographs of Richard Teschner sitting at a table in the garden of Villa Oleander next to Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge, playing the guitar.

Teschner and Emma Bacher had numerous mutual acquaintances and were close to such artists as Kolo Moser and Josef Hoffmann. The couple married on 18 May 1911, and the financial security wedlock brought about for Teschner permitted him to devote himself intensively to his puppet theater from then on. On their lengthy honeymoon, he bought Javanese marionettes in Holland, so-called “wajang figures,” which were used for traditional shadow plays in Indonesia. Teschner conceived a new type of puppet based on them, which was not moved from above with strings, but from below with rods, and he created theatrical Gesamtkunstwerke, universal works of art, for which he designed the figures and their costumes, wrote the plays and music, and figured out the stage technology. Performances of his revolutionary “Golden Shrine” puppet theater were held privately from 1912 onwards, whereas public performances were only held from 1918 onward. His guests included prominent figures of the Viennese art and cultural elite, including Klimt, Hoffmann, Alfred Roller, the dancers Grete Wiesenthal, Tilly Losch, and Mila Cirul, as well as such literary figures as Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Arthur Schnitzler.

Teschner also worked for the First Viennese Wallpaper Factory, the Augarten Porcelain Manufactory, and the Viennese Tapestry Manufactory, tried his hand at film, took part in numerous exhibitions, and decorated the city palace of Josef Kranz; from the 1920s on, however, he mainly concentrated on the puppet theater. In 1932 he invented the so-called “figural mirror,” a stage furnished with a framed concave mirror that allowed for light and illusionary effects and the pantomimic performances of which were accompanied by minimalist sounds without text. In his innovative theater performances, Teschner combined fairytale, fantasy, and grotesque with technical innovation; his plays were performed over many years in his studio in Messerschmidtgasse.

Teschner was always in contact with German-speaking artists and literati and identified himself as “German-Bohemian.” It is quite problematic to see that he continued to work in an ideologically biased environment after 1938, albeit with an apolitical attitude. The Nazi regime appropriated him as a “Sudeten German” artist to instrumentalize him for the preservation and promotion of German culture in the cultural establishment. Teschner’s artistic work was appreciated by the Nazi authorities, and he did not personally contradict their ideology. Only his intimate theater performances were considered unsuitable for broad propaganda programs.

Richard Teschner died from a heart attack on 4 July 1948 and was buried at Vienna’s Central Cemetery.

Literature and sources

  • Kurt Ifkovits (Hg.): "Mit diesen meinen zwei Händen.... Die Bühnen des Richard Teschner, Ausst.-Kat., Theater Museum (Vienna), 25.04.2013–21.04.2014, Vienna 2013.
  • Meldezettel, Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv, Akt 2.5.1.4.K11.Teschner Richard. 22.3.1879. www.wien.gv.at/actaproweb2/benutzung/archive.xhtml (04/28/2020).
  • Peter Rath: Richard Teschner. www.exlibris-austria.at/20_kuenstler/20_tesch_richa.html (05/12/2020).
  • Wien Geschichte Wiki. Richard Teschner. www.geschichtewiki.wien.gv.at/Richard_Teschner (07/05/2020).
  • N. N.: Ausstellung deutscher Künstler aus Böhmen. I., in: Prager Tagblatt, 15.02.1908, S. 7.
  • N. N.: Ausstellung deutscher Künstler aus Böhmen. I., in: Montagsblatt aus Böhmen, 24.02.1908, S. 7.
  • N. N.: Richard Teschner in Wien, in: Prager Tagblatt, 09.12.1909, S. 9.
  • N. N.: Tafel, in: Deutsche Arbeit. Zeitschrift für das Deutschtum im Ausland, Nummer 10 (1910/11), Tafel nach S. 96.
  • Fotopostkarte von Richard Teschner am Attersee an Hermann Flöge jun. in Wien, mitunterschrieben von Gustav Klimt, Emma Bacher, Emilie, Pauline, Therese und Barbara Flöge, Wilhelm von Hackländer jun., Helene Klimt sen. und Helene Klimt jun., LGM 31/3 (08/26/1910), Sammlung Villa Paulick, courtesy Klimt-Foundation, Wien.
  • Korrespondenzkarte von Richard Teschner am Attersee an Karl Teschner in Wien, mitunterschrieben von Gustav Klimt, Emilie, Pauline und Barbara Flöge, Emma Bacher, Helene Klimt jun. und Helene Klimt sen., LGM 31/15 (08/23/1910), Sammlung Villa Paulick, courtesy Klimt-Foundation, Wien.
  • Hans Effenberger: Richard Teschners indisches Theater, in: Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, Band 32 (1913), S. 217-222.
  • Brief mit Kuvert von Gustav Klimt an Richard Teschner und Emma Bacher-Teschner (02/18/1915). S39 (Brief), S564 (Kuvert).
  • Arthur Roessler: Richard Teschner, Vienna 1947.
  • Alfred Weidinger (Hg.): Inselräume. Teschner, Klimt & Flöge am Attersee, Seewalchen 1989.
  • Gästebuch der Villa Paulick. 1881–1947, Sammlung Villa Paulick, courtesy Klimt-Foundation, Wien, S. 84.