Thursday, October 30, 2014

Modernism Takes a Break

Magazine design, 1966

The modern movement in the visual arts is often defined as mid-20th-century modern, although the movement began in the late-19th century

A modern room about 1910

as a reaction to the past.

It's difficult for us to decide about the decorating
trends in this room from the same time period.
Is it modern or not?
Certainly the stove disguised as a baroque
piece of furniture is not modern---but
that wallpaper might be the ultimate in new trends.

There was often a conflict for
advocates of modernism. In Europe
the rising agressive nationalism was
in conflict with the so-called international
style. Some were conflicted about rejecting
their glorious design past.

In establishing a national identify worth fighting about, politicians advocated
incorporating folkloric designs into modernism.

Modern adaptation of German peasant dress in Hitler's Germany.

In the U.S. modernism was combined with 
a "colonial" look to create an invented glorious past,

an "authentic" traditional look.

The Colonial Revival was a popular mish-mash
of modern and not modern.

About 1970, modernism became old-fashioned (an oxymoron if there ever was one.)

1) Taste swings between cluttered and austere.
People were tired of visual austerity.

It was time for a Victorian revival

2) New generations want to distance
themselves from Grandmother's taste.

The 1936 movie may have been called Modern Times,
but the trendy set looked old-fashioned by 1975.

3) Modernism had a lot of rules. The younger
generation was interested in eclectic design

Could Grandma have been modern?

4) We had a hard time identifying modernism

Metal furniture by Norman Bel-Geddes

and what we could identify we didn't like.

All of which sent modernism into retirement.
Until everything switched again.

The 21st century's younger generation wants to distance itself
from the taste of the old. 

Austerity has replaced clutter.

Chair by Norman Bel-Geddes

And modern is hip again.
(Oops! My nephews told me not to use the word hip. It's not hip.)

How about:
 Modern is groovy again.
You see my point.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Modern Print Monday: Munich's German Workshops (Deutsche Werkstätten GmbH)

Print by Josef Hillerbrand
for the Deutsche Werkstätten GmbH

Turn-of-the-last-century modernism was often about workshops where individual designer's names are lost. Following the lead of Austria's Wiener Werkstätte, the Deutsche Werkstätten were organized in Munich in 1898.

Print by Adelbert Niemeyer

It's difficult to find information about this workshop and the textile designers if one doesn't read German. Many records and objects were lost during World War II. To add to the confusion, Germany was home to several similarly named organizations. A second Deutsche Werkstätten is in business today in Hellerau.

Print by Richard Reimerschmid, 1908,
for the Deutscher werkbund in Munich,
another craft workshop.

Ruth Hildegard Geyer-Raack
The Munich workshops also produced textiles for
outside designers.

See a post about Geyer-Raack's print in the collection of the Cooper-Hewitt here:

The Cooper-Hewitt Museum has a collection of works by other Munich workshop designers at this link:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Modern Quilts: Celebrating Color

Marcia Derse
with a stack of her hand-dyed fabrics.

Sujata Shah

Carol Gilham Jones

Cheri House

Nancy Cluts

Melody Johnson

Terry Hancock Mangat

Hilde Morin

Nancy Crow

Peggy Spaeth

Ginny Lee

Malka Dubrawski

Monday, October 20, 2014

Modern Print Monday: Roger Fry & the Omega Workshops

Roger Fry, Amenophis, 1913

Roger Fry (1866-1934), self-portrait

The first years of the 20th century were an exciting time for international trade in ideas, just before World War I put an end to free circulation of avant-garde notions between countries.

Englishman Roger Fry was responsible for a good deal of the international trade. An artist himself, he became an art critic and art historian, serving as Curator of European Painting at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art between 1904 and 1910.

Originally a specialist in Italian masters, he abandoned the distant past after seeing the work of Cezanne. He brought Post-Impressionists to London in a 1910 exhibit (He classified Manet, Gauguin and Van Gogh together and invented the name.)

Van Gogh is classified as a Post-Impressionist.

Their paintings shocked London in 1910.

Read the catalog here:

Édouard Manet, Portrait of Henri Bernstein's child, 1881

Many British artists were transformed, including writer Virginia Woolf who described the exhibition's effects: "On or about December 1910 human character changed."

Paul Gauguin, The Bathers, 1897

Omega Workshops, display for an Ideal Home
exhibit in 1913

Fry and his friends (many of who were classified as the Bloombury Group) incorporated the modernist ideas into their homes, adding murals to the walls, painted pattern to the furniture and painterly textiles as curtains, upholstery and floor coverings.

In 1913 Fry opened the Omega Workshops, similar to the Weiner Werkstatte and the Morris Workshop in dedication to the hand made and the modern. They sold their pottery, textiles and interior design sensibility to modern London.

Painter Duncan Grant's studio at Charleston, a house 
where Omega-style interior has been preserved.

Bloomsbury Rooms: Modernism, Subculture, and 
Domesticity by Christopher Reed

Christopher Reed, a later art historian, explains Omega style: "The group's first response to modern French paintings was to imagine them as places to inhabit."

Fire Screen by Duncan Grant

See an Omega-produced garment at the Victoria and Albert Museum website:

Westwind by Duncan Grant, 1931

Charleston sells Omega-designed prints today:

Read two previous posts on the prominent Omega designers below:

White by Vanessa Bell

Vanessa Bell

Duncan Grant

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vintage Quilts: Freeing Color

While modernists were struggling to free color from
imagery, quiltmakers were nonchalantly
setting a standard for abstraction that is hard to meet.

Quilts born of necessity and available fabric
seem perfectly modern when displayed on a wall.

Even quilts made in conventional patterns
can look like mere structure for applying color
(sort of like toast as a structure for applying butter.)

Color depends on technology. It's only in the
mid-20th century that dyers have been
able to give consumers a true range of colors.

Although some turn-of-the-20th-century
women did quite well with the limited
shades available at the time.