Carry Hauser Moderne Welt

Artwork of the Month, October 2022: Cover of Moderne Welt by Carry Hauser (1934)

In August 1934, the Austrian illustrated magazine Moderne Welt featured a bright cover of a couple in folk dress, which appeared to stand in full contradiction with the modernity emphasised in its title. Yet the cover perfectly illustrates a shift in modern Austrian culture towards what we might call ‘alpine modernity’. Representing a trend embracing the country’s alpine geography and folk traditions, it had begun to develop in the 1920s but gained special importance during the reactionary Dollfuss-Schuschnigg regime of the 1930s. With its peculiar mix of technological progress and rural life, Austria’s ‘alpine modernity’ reinvented the country as a tourist-friendly, German, Catholic country, whose most remarkable features were ‘cosiness’ (‘Gemütlichkeit‘), natural beauty, and the celebration of folk traditions and religious life. International tourist advertising aside, this image also circulated widely in the national press, and encouraged city dwellers, especially, to venture out and explore their home country. Thus, even though the folkloric naivety of the image appears to represent the very opposite of the modern world proclaimed in the magazine title, the two poles were not as far removed from one another as the cover may initially suggest. Moreover, the cover was designed by Carry Hauser (1895–1985), a painter, stage designer, printmaker, and writer, who was closely involved in efforts to rejuvenate Austrian culture after the First World War. Contextualising the Moderne Welt cover in relation to Hauser’s work as well as the magazine, this Artwork of the Month essay shows that Austrian modern culture maintained strong ties to rural culture throughout the interwar years and promoted it at home just as much as abroad.

Carry Hauser Moderne Welt

Carry Hauser: Cover for Moderne Welt, August 1934 – photo: Austrian National Library, Vienna,

Alpine modernity: Embedding rural culture into modern life

Below a banner in a simple serif font, Hauser’s cover depicts a couple in traditional Austrian dress in front of an alpine landscape. Green pastures lead up to a forest and rugged, grey mountains overlook the scene in the distance, rather emphasising a romantic vision of traditional life in the countryside. In bright colours and with a simplified visual language, the cover resembles Austrian vernacular painting (Bauernmalerei) in both form and colour. The simplified flowers scattered in the pastures behind the couple recall the patterns printed on traditional fabrics; the figures appear static with simple, naïve facial features. Indeed, vernacular painting came to be discussed more frequently in the Austrian press at approximately the same time as the image was published: featuring in interior design, lauded in reviews of theatre productions, and exhibited as a historic national art, its naïve forms and bright colours were promoted as a resuscitated form of quaint, alpine Austrian culture.[1] Both aspects appear to play a role in Hauser‘s design: on the one hand, the naïve style gives the cover a playful image, while most attention is paid to the detailing of the costumes, which appear to be festive dress in the western Austrian state of Tyrol and detail different fabric patterns and shading to emphasise contours of different cuts.

In contrast to most other Moderne Welt covers, which mostly focus on modern women, Hauser’s design features a couple representing masculine and feminine ideals. The man stands broad-shouldered and confident, legs apart, one hand resting in the decorated pocket of his Lederhosen. The woman, who must be his wife judging by a wedding band on her right ring finger, is a delicate blonde and blue-eyed beauty, her hands resting coyly above her red apron with a small square object (a prayer book, perhaps?) and a lace tissue in her left. Despite the image’s visual simplicity, therefore, several clues point towards the couple’s representation as ‘ideal Austrians’, as promoted by the corporate state at the time: their physique corresponds with ideals of Austrian beauty, while the woman’s accessories indicate a religiously sanctioned relationship between the two. Overall, Hauser’s design, more than those of any of the other artists contributing to Moderne Welt at the time, illustrates the ‘alpine ideal’ promoted by the Austrian regime of the 1930s. In line with the artist’s involvement in cultural politics at the time as well as the magazine’s content overall, it gives an outline of the main ideological tenets of the new state, presented in an easily digestible, consumer-friendly manner.

Carry Hauser: ‘Madonna painter’ and Catholic modernist

Hauser designed the cover of Moderne Welt at the height of his career between the wars. It coincided with his engagement in official cultural politics under the Dollfuss-Schuschnigg regime, and a moment in time in which Hauser became a vocal defender of a national Austrian art, which had been developing since the early 1920s. The artist had engaged with the dynamics of urban and rural culture since the early stages of his career, in which he sought to promote and develop modern Austrian art after 1918, a goal accompanied by a deep personal religiosity.[2] Included in exhibitions such as Nervous and Angry (2022) at the Museum of Modern Art in Salzburg and the current show Hagenbund: From Moderate to Radical Modernism at Vienna’s Leopold Museum, the broad range of Hauser’s work and its duality of rural and urban features are important examples of the dynamics of the visual arts in interwar Austria.

Born in Vienna in 1895, Carl Maria Hauser – later known as Carry – studied at the Academy of Graphic Arts from 1910 to 1912. He then entered the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna, where he studied with Franz Čižek (1865–1946) and Oskar Strnad (1879–1935), among others.[3] He volunteered with the Habsburg army in 1914, after which the traumatic experiences of war left him as a pacificist. He withdrew to Passau, Germany, following the collapse of the empire, and would commute from there to Vienna between 1919 and 1922. In Passau, Hauser was associated with the artist group The Rock (‘der Fels’, 1920–1927), seeking ‘to find distance from the metropolis and to build his own artistic existence’.[4] At the same time, he also engaged with German New Objectivity painting, co-founded the short-lived artist group Free Movement (‘Freie Bewegung’, 1919–1922) in Vienna and was a member of the Society for the Promotion of Modern Art (‘Gesellschaft zur Förderung moderner Kunst’) before joining the Hagenbund artist association in 1924. Hauser’s work from this time, such as his illustrated poetry collection The Book of the Metropolis (‘Das Buch von der Stadt’, 1921), and Jazz Band (1927), show interest in urban themes and metropolitan entertainment culture.

Jazz Band by Carry Hauser

Carry Hauser: Jazz Band, 1927, © Familie Goldscheider – photo: EPIC GmbH, Petra Graf © Bildrecht, Wien 2022,

Simultaneously, however, Hauser’s work also featured rural topics. Works such as Murder (‘Mord’, 1923), for example, transposed familiar dark topics of urban violence and femicide from German New Objectivity painting into the countryside. Together with the German artist Georg Philipp Wörlen (1886–1954), he also produced a book with woodcut prints titled Landscapes (‘Landschaften’, 1923), which featured several pastoral rural scenes. At the same time, Hauser’s Catholicism also gained growing visibility in his work: Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery (‘Christus und die Ehebrecherin’, 1923), for example, shows Christ protecting a woman from a mob whose distorted faces resemble the dystopian drawings of George Grosz. Hauser’s religiosity, however, is most evident in his many paintings of the Madonna and Child earning him the nickname ‘The Madonna painter’.[5] Consequently, even though Hauser made a name for himself with paintings that addressed the modern city, religious and rural themes continued to feature as recurrent elements in his work.

These elements would be of particular importance to Hauser’s activities in the 1930s in relation to the socio-political changes that took place in the country at the time: The Dollfuss-Schuschnigg corporate state (‘Ständestaat’) was instated in Austria in 1934 after a period of political instability that had led to the dissolution of the Austrian parliament in March 1933.[6] Effectively a dictatorship, the new regime banned all parties aside from its own Fatherland Front organisation and imposed an Austrian nationalist state ideology based on Catholicism and a celebration of rural culture.[7] Even though support for National Socialism was already  widespread in the country at the time, the Dollfuss-Schuschnigg regime ostensibly positioned itself against the Third Reich and strongly promoted Austria as the ‘better German’ nation.[8] As a devoted Catholic and staunch opponent of National Socialism, Hauser became involved with the Fatherland Front.[9] He was a trustee of the organisation’s cultural section New Life (‘Neues Leben’) and closely engaged with the promotion of Austrian national culture at this time, of which the celebration of Catholicism and rural life were an intrinsic part.[10]

In his 1938 book About Art and Artists in Austria, Hauser outlined the Austrian artistic landscape after 1918, emphasising its difference from its German counterpart on the one hand, and drawing an intrinsic connection between the country’s geographical conditions and its impact on artists on the other.[11] Hauser’s focus on non-urban culture also resurfaces here: pointing out that approximately half of all artists registered in Austria come from the provinces, he emphasises that the ‘young who come from the provinces are necessary and valuable‘ and points out that  ‘one also finds active cultural life in the provinces, especially in the regional capitals.’[12] In line with the Catholic-rural ideology of the Austrian state, therefore, Hauser positioned the provinces as an essential part of the country‘s cultural life.

Hauser also identifies poster design and the graphic arts as one of the most promising branches of Austrian culture, owing, not least, to their popular accessibility and ability to communicate messages in a simple and effective manner.[13] In light of this context, his cover design for Moderne Welt reads like a best-practice example for Austrian art in the time of the corporate state. On the one hand, the image shows an almost sickly-sweet image of a rural Austrian Heimat (‘homeland’), which strongly differs from the jarred angular forms of Hauser’s urban-themed paintings. On the other hand, its place on the cover of a modern magazine positions it as part of a popular culture, which – despite its demonstrative focus on rural culture – was deeply rooted in urban life, too.

From Officina Vindobonensis to Moderne Welt

As part of his prolific activities during the 1920s, Hauser also began to design magazine covers. In 1926, he and the photographer and graphic designer Robert Haas (1898–1997) co-founded the Vienna-based printing workshop Officina Vindobonensis which aimed to revive traditional techniques of printing and book design.[14] By the late 1920s, the workshop had established itself as a well-known address for ex-libris and book designs, and regularly took part in design exhibitions in Vienna. Hauser, too, regularly contributed illustrations and graphic designs to publications such as Bau- and Werkkunst, of which his patron, the art critic Arthur Roessler (1877–1955), was the Editor-in-Chief.

Designs by Officina Vindobonensis

Designs by Carry Hauser, Robert Haas and Officina Vindobonensis, Bau- und Werkkunst, 1926–27, p. 96. – photo: Austrian National Library, Vienna,

The cover of Moderne Welt thus was not an unusual kind of work in Hauser‘s work overall, however, its publication outlet was. Moderne Welt (1923–1939) was a Vienna-based illustrated magazine of the publishing house Atelier Bachwitz, which started out in the late nineteenth century and had previously specialised in fashion magazines such as Chic Parisien (1898–1939).[15] First published in 1918, Moderne Welt was an attempt to diversify the company’s products. [16] It was conceptualised as a cultural journal that covered society news, as well as topics such as literature, fine arts, and theatre, while fashion remained an intrinsic part of its content. The publication was predominantly directed at middle-class, female readers, and had a strong commercial outlook with numerous advertisements for department stores, cosmetics, as well as holiday recommendations and light reading. In other words, the Moderne Welt’s profile appears to differ quite significantly from Hauser’s usual publication outlets, which had a greater artistic and design focus.

Yet the date of Hauser’s cover also coincides with a brief moment of rapid modernisation of Moderne Welt’s design. In this light, changes to the publication’s presentation might be compared to die neue linie, a German women’s illustrated published by the publishing house of Otto Beyer, which began to work with Bauhaus artists in the late 1929 in order to offer a new, fashionable concept for magazine publishing.[17] Moderne Welt, too, shifted its image at around the same time. On the one hand, this is visible in the publication‘s engagement of young female designers and photographers, such as Ernie Kniepert (1911–1990) and Trude Fleischmann (1895–1990), who introduced experimental images and a focus on the modern lives of young, fashionable, middle-class women in Vienna . [18] On the other hand Moderne Welt also began to print covers designed by established artists, including the painters Alfons Walde (1891–1958), Sergius Pauser (1896–1970) – and Hauser. This modernisation process with new photographs, typography and cover designs coincides closely with regime change put in effect by the self-elimination of the Austrian parliament in March 1933, which paved the way for the establishing of the Dollfuss-Schuschnigg corporate state in the following year. Thus, the changes to Moderne Welt in the 1930s overall show that an increasingly oppressive political atmosphere did not halt processes of modernization in publishing.

Modernity, consumer culture and rural life

The cover of Moderne Welt suggests a world of rural bliss, which is exactly what readers can also find on the subsequent pages. Following a large-scale portrait of Chancellor Dollfuss, who had been shot in an attempted National Socialist coup d’état two months earlier, the remainder of the issue is concerned with conjuring an idyllic image of rural life.

page from Moderne Welt

Guido Zernatto: ‘Volkstrachtmode,’ Moderne Welt, August 1934, p. 6. Illustrations by Ernie Kniepert and photographs by Rudolf Koppitz. Austrian National Library, Vienna,

The dominant focus lies on Austrian provinces such as mountainous Tyrol, which features as a touristic location, as well as a source of inspiration for the latest fashions. A contribution by one of the Dollfuss-Schuschnigg regime’s main ideologues, Guido Zernatto (1903–1943), positions folk dress as an essential part of modern culture: ‘Our times increasingly turn towards a love for the natural and the rural, so that folk costumes are becoming fashion. […] the deeper meaning of this might be that the urban population, too, has been caught by a sense of longing to show, also on the exterior, that the belong to the country in which they are living.’[19] Visual affirmation of this is provided by rich illustration, including drawings by Kniepert as well as large photographs by Rudolf Koppitz (1884–1936), Austria’s best-known photographer of idealised rural scenes. Moreover, advertisements recommend tailors in Vienna specializing in folk costumes, while the regular travel column by writer Grete Donau recommends Tyrol as an ideal location for a summer escape: ‘Tyrol was made for tourists long before tourist advertising even began.’ [20] Even foreign travel maintains an alpine focus, featuring mountain resorts in Canada, which, the article emphasizes, are surprisingly similar to those in Switzerland.

Throughout the magazine therefore, modern life – represented by fashion, advertising, and travel – is ‘alpinised’ and consistently related to rural life and folk traditions, made palatable for urban readers by suggesting a deceleration from the pressures of urban life. In other words, it presents the cornerstones of the corporate state – rural life, folklore, Catholicism and tourism – as an attractive and consumable world to modern female readers, shrouded by comforting, leisurely overtones that blank out the financial hardships and political crises overwhelming central Europe at the time. Hauser’s cover, then, ultimately represents a gateway. In the simple and easily graspable terms that poster design should achieve, his image epitomizes the alpine landscape as an antidote to an inhospitable modernity, making it ‘cosy’ in line with the parameters of the new Austrian regime.

Julia Secklehner

Works by Carry Hauser currently feature in Hagenbund: Von der gemäßigten zur radikalen Moderne (Leopold Museum, Vienna, 16 September 2022 – 6 February 2023)

[1] For example, see ‘Bauernmalerei aus drei Jahrhunderten,‘ Profil: Österreichische Monatsschrift für bildende Kunst, 3 (1933) p. 4; ‘Besprechung der Ausstellung “Heimischen Schaffens“‘, Bau, Garten und Stube: Monatsschrift für Heimkultur, Bau- und Wohnberatung, 7–8 (1933) pp. 5-9.

[2] See Cornelia Cabuk, Carry Hauser: Monograph and catalogue raisonné (Weitra, 2012).

[3] Ralph Gleis, ed., O.R. Schatz & Carry Hauser Im Zeitalter der Extreme (Vienna, 2016) p. 181.

[4] Gabriel Koller, Erika Patka and Brigitte Huck, eds, Abbild und Emotion: Österreichischer Realismus 1914–1944 (Vienna, 1984) p. 45.

[5] Cornelia Cabuk, ‘Carry Hauser: Werke aus dem Nachlass,’ in Carry Hauser: Werke aus dem Nachlass, ed. Roland Widder (Vienna, 2018) p. 5.

[6] Emmerich Tálos and Wolfgang Neugebauer, Austrofaschismus: Politik-Ökonomie-Kultur 1933–1938 (Vienna, 2005); Ulrich Kluge, Der österreichische Ständestaat (Oldenbourg, 2019).

[7] Wolfgang Kos, ed., Kampf um die Stadt: Politik, Kunst und Alltag um 1930 (Vienna, 2010); Franz Kadrnoska, ed., Zwischen Aufbruch und Unterhang: Österreichische Kultur zwischen 1918 und 1938 (Vienna, 1981).

[8] Gernot Heiss, ‘Pan-Germans, Better Germans, Austrians: Austrian Historians on National Identity from the First to the Second Republic,’ German Studies Review 16.3 (1993) pp. 411–433; Winfried Ganscha, ‘Nationalsozialisten in Österreich 1933–1938’, in Tálos and Neugebauer, eds, Austrofaschismus, pp. 101 and 108.

[9] Cornelia Cabuk, ‘Aspekte des Politischen. Engagierter Realismus bei Carry Hauser,’ in Gleis, ed. O.R. Schatz & Carry Hauser, p. 26.

[10] See S.S., ‘Der Erste Urania-Festzug,’ Profil: Österreichische Monatsschrift für bildende Kunst 5 (1934) p. 6.

[11] Carry Hauser, Von Kunst und Künstlern in Österreich (Brixlegg, 1938) pp. 15–16.

[12] Hauser, Von Kunst und Künstlern, p. 26.

[13] Hauser, Von Kunst und Künstlern, p. 39.

[14] ‘Wiener Künstler: Ein Besuch in der Officina Vindobonensis,‘ Die Bühne, 277 (1930) pp. 11–13; Berhard Denscher, ‘Robert Haas – Von der “Officina Vindobonensis“ zur “Ram Press,“‘ Austrian Posters (online), .

[15] Hannah Marynissen, ‘Femininity and Modernity: the changing face of “Moderne Welt“’, Palais des Beaux Arts (online), .

[16] Primus-Heinz Kucher, ‘Moderne Welt,‘ Litkult: Transdisziplinäre Konstellationen in der österreichischen Literatur, Kunst und Kultur der Zwischenkriegszeit (online), .

[17]  Patrick Rössler, Die neue Linie 1929–1943: Das Bauhaus am Kiosk (Berlin, 2007).

[18] Marynissen, ‘Femininity and Modernity’.

[19] Guido Zernatto, ‘Volkstrachtmode’, Moderne Welt, 15.11 (1934) p. 6.

[20] Grete Donau, ‘Tirol im Sommer’, Moderne Welt, 15.11 (1934) p. 18.

DOI 10.17605/OSF.IO/7N2Y6

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