At the age of 6, Wenzel Hablika stared deeply into a crystal he’d found in his hometown of Brüx in Czechoslaovakia. The toddler Wendel saw “magical castles and mountains” inside the crystal in his hand, themes that would populate the adult artist’s artwork, architecture and design.
Raised in his fathers cabinetry shop, at age 8 eight Wenzel began a carpentry apprenticeship in his father’s shop which he finished four years later. At just 12 years old he was a master cabinetmaker. This was the beginning of what was to be a relentlessly creative and original life. After his apprenticeship Wenzel painted porcelain, worked as a draftsman for an architect and studied painting at the Vienna Kunstgewerbeschule and the Prague Academy of Arts.
The cosmic crystalline would frequent Hablik’s work, appearing overtly in paintings, drawings, and subtly in his interiors and fabric design. In 1907 Hablik met Richard Biel, a wealthy timber merchant who became his mentor and patron. In 1907, Hablik permanently settled in Biel’s hometown of Itzehoe near Hamburg. Here he pursued architectural and interior design projects, producing designs for furniture, textiles, tapestries, jewellery, cutlery, and wallpapers. From 1908, Hablik designed complete interior decorations for his patron Biel and other wealthy families in northern Germany.
Living inside the roomspaces he designed felt like living inside the fragmented light of a crystal.
Shortly after his arrival in Itzehoe, Hablik met the weaver and fabric designer Lisbeth Lindemann (1879–1960). They shared a workshop and studio in Itezhoe, and married in 1917. Via Biel’s patronage, Hablik had expanded his range of work dramatically, evolving from artist to designer. He collected crystals, minerals, seashells and snails.
These quotes from Hablik’s Glass Chain letters of 1919-20 give us some idea of his personality:
“Come and join the struggle against all things negative and corrupting.”
“Your ideas should be as irresponsibly free as a bird…Let us create a fresh atmosphere, a pure aura of spirit, wit, and joy. “
“Where are you, prophets? – the heralds of the new life, telling of the new suns, moons and stars!”
“You do not know the curse of the creative one who wants to be all-powerful, who needs a thousand lives! And carries one weak body to the grave”
In 1906 the 25 year old Wenzel made a solo ascent of Mont Blanc at Chamonix. The “White Mountain” soars to 15,000 feet above sea level, the highest mountain in the Alps and the highest in Europe west of Russia’s Caucasus peaks. To climb it at all was no mean feat in 1909, to climb it alone was extraordinary. What he saw on the climb up through the clouds toward the icy, faceted summit was as revelatory as his staring into the crystal as a toddler. Three years later in 1909, he’d finished a Mont Blanc inspired series called Schaffende Kräfte (Creative Forces), “a portfolio of twenty etchings portraying a voyage through an imaginary universe of crystalline structures”.
In 1923, six years after marrying Elizabeth, Hablic decorated the walls and ceiling of the couple’s dining room covering them in a psychedelic geometry of colour. Hablik saved his potentially “degenerate” dining room from the Nazis by hastily covering the interlaced rainbow blocks of color with neutral wallpaper. It worked. The murals were only discovered again by chance in 2013. They’ve now been fully restored.
Although he considered himself an expressionist, Hablik was inspired by the bauhaus and Walter Gropius, the bauhaus founder was once a guest in the Itzehoe house. His wife, Lisbeth Lindemann, got headaches in the multi coloured room & in 1933 Hablik covered some the offending work with a japanese sidewall.