Bergman, Franz Xaver (Austrian, 1861-1936)

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Franz Xaver Bergman (or Bergmann) was a celebrated owner of a Viennese bronze foundry particularly noted for its patinated and cold painted bronze figures and sculptures.

Born in Vienna in 1861, Bergman was the son of a Bohemian metalworker who had opened his own bronze factory there in 1860. Franz eventually inherited the company, and opened his own foundry at the very end of the 19th Century.

Although there were many bronze foundries operating in Vienna in this period, it was Bergman’s which has become the most celebrated. Bergman worked with a number of celebrated sculptors working in Vienna at the turn of the 20th Century, such as Bruno Zach, to produce designs for his famous bronze figures.

Bergman bronzes are especially famous for having utilised a technique for decorating the bronzes called cold painting. Cold painting as a technique developed in Vienna in the later 19th Century, and involved the application of several layers of paint added to the bronze after firing. It was used to make fashionable collectors’ items. 

Bergman figures came in three main forms: animal figures, Orientalist sculptures, and erotic figures in the Art Nouveau style. His animal figures were often whimsical and humorous, and often satirical. They have become highly sought-after collectors’ items today.

Bergman’s Orientalist sculptures are equally highly sought-after. He was producing these figures at a time when interest in the exotic lands of the Middle East and North Africa was at its peak among Europe’s artists and buyers.

Finally, Bergman’s foundry has become renowned for its erotic figures produced in the Art Nouveau style.  These were often concealed within a larger structure which could be opened to reveal a female nude figure. Bergman signed most of these pieces ‘Nam Greb’ so as to conceal his identity and avoid controversy.