Early developments

During the industrial revolution Slovakia formed part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The industrialisation process in the monarchy was considerable delayed, but as regards the history of design, the production of the Austrian company Thonet, which was orientated to the production of bentwood furniture, was exceptionally important.
Half way through the 19th century, the founder of the company, Michael Thonet, was one of the pioneers of the new design profession. In 1867 Thonet established his third factory in Veľké Uherce in Slovakia. This factory was well-known for the production and later innovation of Thonet’s most famous product – chair No 14. From the end of the 1860s, Thonet’s company had to face several competitive producers of similar products in Slovakia, particularly Harnisch in Banská Bystrica, Eisler in Košice, Swoboda in Zvolen and Dobrovits in Martin. The latter company was subsequently transformed into Tatra Furniture Turčiansky sv Martin (and later to Tatra Furniture Pravenec and the Tatra Furniture Company Martin) and took its place among the most significant furniture producers promoting progressive design in the 20th century.
In the 19th century only a few of the industries developed in Slovakia turned out products which could compete in the international market. Success was only achieved by a small group of glass production and metal working enterprises.
The glass industry had a long tradition in Slovakia, but only a few glassworks managed to survive the 19th century. The glassworks in Uhrovec, founded in 1874 by Mr Schreiber, belonged among those that were internationally recognised. Its Secessionist products designed by Stefan Sovanek were awarded a gold medal at the World Exhibition in St Louis in 1904. Even greater success was achieved by Schreiber’s other company, established in 1892 in Lednické Rovne, which had the very latest equipment and was the first glass company in Europe to decorate glass with a pantograph. Along with production and manufacture, it also concentrated on machine production for wholesale customers (glassware, laboratory and container glass, lamps, etc) The glassworks operating under the name Rona Lednické Rovne still exists, building its business success on the quality of its designs.
The greatest success among metal working companies was achieved by Sandrik from Dolné Hámre, which was founded in 1895. For the production of cutlery and tableware, the company used a progressive galvanisation technology. After the products designed by Jan Peterka were awarded a gold medal at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900, the company began to supply its tableware to the major European hotels.
Modern graphic design was also born in the context of the industrialisation processes running in the 19th century. The first example of modern graphic design in Slovakia is considered to be the lithographic poster by A Lippert from the end of the 1860s that advertised the Jozef Werfer Printworks in Košice. Several print works existed at that time in two major print centres in Slovakia – Košice and Bratislava. Apart from Werfer, other important print works included the J Zabracsky Print Works in Košice and the A Schreiber and C F Wigand print works in Bratislava, as well as others. The population concentration in these towns predetermined posters developing in the most significant media at the first stage of the development of graphic design. Several noteworthy Secessionist posters and other graphic materials related to Slovakia have been preserved from the turn of the 20th century; many of them, however, were printed in Budapest and some of them have escaped complex critical evaluation.