In 1836, Johann Eisner established a glassworks in the Southern Bohemian town of Klostermühle, today part of the Czech Republic. After his death, ownership of the glassworks changed in 1849 and again in 1851, when it was bought by Frank Gerstner. Gerstner's wife, Susanne, had been previously married to Johann Loetz and widowed before re-marrying. Johann Loetz was a glassmaker about whom little is known. Gerstner transferred sole ownership to Susanne shortly before his death in 1855 and she successfully led and expanded the company. In 1879, Susanne transferred the company (now called 'Johann Loetz Witwe') to her son-in-law, Maximilian von Spaun, who hired Eduard Prochaska - together modernizing the factory and introducing new, patented techniques and processes.
Recognition came at exhibitions in Brussels, Munich and Vienna, and then at the Paris World Exhibition in 1889. Von Spaun first saw Tiffany Favrile glass exhibited in Bohemia and Vienna in 1897 - convincing him that the Art Nouveau style would be the company's future. The next decade was to be the most artistically significant and profitable period in the entire history of the company. The peak of Loetz's Art Nouveau glass was epitomized by the so-called Phänomen series, much of it designed by Hofstötter, which won a Grand Prix (alongside Tiffany, Gallé, Daum and Lobmeyr) at the 1900 Paris World Exhibition.
Loetz Papillon Glass and Pewter Vase c1905
Although 1904 also saw a Grand Prix at the St. Louis World Fair, sales started to fall as interest in Phänomen glass declined. New artistic collaborations were needed to make up for a lack of in-house innovation. Loetz strengthened its collaboration with Viennese designers such as Leopold Bauer, Otto Prutscher and Josef Hoffmann before, in 1909, appointing Adolf Beckert (a specialist of etched decoration) as its new artistic director. In the same year, von Spaun transferred management of the glassworks to his son, Maximilian Robert. Maximilian Robert proved to be less effective in managing the glassworks and financial problems worsened. By 1911 Loetz needed additional money from the von Spaun family to continue operating - but was still managing to produce new designs, including the new etched glass and newly introduced Tango glass designed by Michael Powolny which were shown at the Deutsche Werkbund exhibition in 1914. However the departure of Loetz's artistic director in 1913 followed by a major fire and the outbreak of WWI virtually sealed the company's fate. Loetz had a slight but brief revival after the war mainly due to the popularity of their coloured opal glass - however further financial problems followed. Lacking new ideas, Loetz attempted to revive business by adapting previous art nouveau designs into art deco styles as well as producing low quality cameo glass and glass animals. However the Great Depression in the late 1920s and another major fire in 1930 had a devastating impact. Following several changes in ownership, the company declared bankruptcy in 1939 following the German invasion of Czechoslovakia. The glassworks manufactured utilitarian glassware for the Third Reich throughout the war, but ultimately closed down completely in 1947.