In October I visited Austria for the launch of Ghostletters Vienna by Tom Koch. While there I was taken on many trips across the city, and also on a visit to the Schildermalermuseum (Sign Painter Museum). It is a little-known gem which should be a place of pilgrimage for anyone in the sign and lettering world.

The museum is housed in the former workshop of Josef Samuel, the last in four generations of Viennese sign painters. The business was originally set up in 1882 by Josef’s Great Grandfather and the museum contains material gathered across the 130 years that elapsed between then and the recent closure of the shop.

Signage for the Samuel business

Starting with the founder successive generations realised the value of keeping their work, and other materials connected with it. A number of pieces advertising the business itself were on display.

Detail of Arnold Samuel’s sign, dating from the 1880s.

Sample sheets, including Arnold Samuel sign and layout.

Door plate for the business.

Arnold Samuel’s sign, dating from the 1880s, among other items at the museum entrance.

Gold & Glass Pieces

The business was highly versatile, able to work in a variety of techniques, including gilding and glass work.

Self-promotional piece by Arnold Samuel.

Gilded R on glass.

Sodawasser.

Carved and glass sign with gilding.

Sample Panels

One of my favourite parts of the museum were the two dozen or so small sample panels, typically painted in the slower winter months as examples to show prospective clients of the type of work that could be commissioned.

Firmaschilder Ladenaufschriften, Wien 1899–1900

Josef brought out a number of books from the turn of the century, including this one which was a series of photographs documenting Viennese signage between 1899–1900.

Firmaschilder Ladenaufschriften, Wien 1899–1900.

Firmaschilder Ladenaufschriften, Wien 1899–1900.

Firmaschilder Ladenaufschriften, Wien 1899–1900.

Firmaschilder Ladenaufschriften, Wien 1899–1900.

Der Praktische Schildermaler by Hans J. Jedlitschka

A second book comprised a series of signs and layouts. (Damon Styer of New Bohemian Signs has written about this book here.)

Der Praktische Schildermaler by Hans J. Jedlitschka.

Der Praktische Schildermaler by Hans J. Jedlitschka.

Der Praktische Schildermaler by Hans J. Jedlitschka.

Der Praktische Schildermaler by Hans J. Jedlitschka.

Der Praktische Schildermaler by Hans J. Jedlitschka.

Der Praktische Schildermaler by Hans J. Jedlitschka.

Der Praktische Schildermaler by Hans J. Jedlitschka.

Der Praktische Schildermaler by Hans J. Jedlitschka.

Der Praktische Schildermaler by Hans J. Jedlitschka.

Der Praktische Schildermaler by Hans J. Jedlitschka.

Der Praktische Schildermaler by Hans J. Jedlitschka.

Der Praktische Schildermaler by Hans J. Jedlitschka.

Trade Directory

A trade directory featured a mixture of sign painter listings, and advertisements for them and their suppliers.

Trade directory of sign firms in Vienna.

Advertisement for Josef Klein in trade directory of sign firms in Vienna.

Page showing listing for Arnold Samuel in the trade directory of sign firms in Vienna.

Advertising in trade directory of sign firms in Vienna.

Final Apprenticeship Piece

Arnold Samuel (junior) completed this piece at the end of his apprenticeship, with sketches on display alongside the finished work.

Arnold Samuel (junior) created this as his final piece for his apprenticeship.

Preparatory work for Arnold Samuel’s final piece for his apprenticeship.

Preparatory work for Arnold Samuel’s final piece for his apprenticeship.

Photograph showing Arnold Samuel (junior) at work on the final piece for his apprenticeship.

Sketches & Cards

In addition to finished pieces and samples, a large collection of noteworthy and other sketches and pieces on paper and card have been saved.

1901 sketch by Arnold Samuel.

Layouts and letter sketches.

Apprenticeship practise pieces by Arnold Samuel, senior (1901) and junior (1924).

E study.

Layout sketches.

Sketched ornamental letter.

Layout experiments.

Logo types.

iMi showcard.

Small showcard.

Josef Torley.

Robes.

Showcard detail.

Werthpapieren.

Eduard Mlcoch.

Sauerstaff.

Entrance & Artefacts

As you would expect, the entrance is well signed. Once inside it is possible to see some of the antique equipment that still sits where it was once used.

Schildermalermuseum entrance.

Paint splashes on the floor.

Founder Arnold Samuel’s certificate, showing four years of training from 1900–1904.

Years of accumulated drips.

Pigment drawers.

Pigment grinder.

Paint mixers.

Rabbit foot used to colour back of designs for transfer. Rabbits were kept during the war, and nothing was wasted!

Other Work & Museum Founder

Finally, some samples of other signage, pictorials, and a portrait of museum founder, Josef Samuel. I highly recommend making an appointment to visit if you are travelling to Austria, or any of the neighbouring countries. There is no direct charge, but voluntary donations are welcomed. Appointments can be made via the museum website.

Collection of items on display at the Schildermalermuseum.

Jos. Dietzl.

Johann Schalkhas.

Ferdinand Simmerl.

Pictorial work at the Schildermalermuseum.

Pictorial work at the Schildermalermuseum.

Pictorial work at the Schildermalermuseum.

Josef Samuel, Schildermalermuseum founder and fourth generation sign painter.

For more on Ghostletters Vienna, see this blog post on Ghostsigns about the launch, the book’s home page and Facebook page. It can be purchased directly from the publisher.