Founded in Vienna by Julius August Kalmar in the 1880s, Kalmar first specialized in the production of handcrafted objects of cast bronze. The company soon established its practice of closely collaborating with prominent architects to create chandeliers and other cast bronze objects in Austria, Europe and the United States. Before long it was presenting custom-made wares at international exhibitions such as the 1888 Vienna Trade Exposition (Gewerbeausstellung Wien), the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, the 1901 Export Exposition Scandinavia and the 1906 Austrian Exhibition, Earl’s Court, London.
After the turn of the century, Julius Theodor Kalmar, son of the original founder, studied under the renowned Austrian architect and designer Josef Hoffmann at the Vienna School of Applied Arts and the Birmingham School of Art and Design. Inspired by Josef Hoffmann and the arts and crafts movement of the era, Julius pushed the company in a new direction away from the eclectic style of the late 19th century, and in 1925 Kalmar designs began selling in Haus und Garten, an avant-garde shop for home furnishings founded by architects and designers Josef Frank and Oskar Wlach. The shop was to become a main venue of modern Austrian interior and lighting design and a trademark in the promotion of Viennese design abroad.
By 1931, Kalmar was concerned solely with designing and manufacturing high quality lamps and fixtures in cooperation with the architects of the Austrian Werkbund, an association of artists, craftsmen, architects and manufacturers founded in 1912. Their purpose was the promotion of a high regard for material, form and function in the handcrafted as well as industrial production of fine art and applied arts. They sought modernity by combining classical tradition and contemporary innovation. Recognized as a typically Viennese style by the 1930’s, this “moderate modernity” integrated the ornament-stripped purism of Adolf Loos with ..