“Magisterial. . . a stunning visual survey of 600 years of making, and an in-depth look at the evolution of the very idea of design itself.”

– Books of the Year 2013: Art, The Independent


More than a decade in the making, this work, spanning six centuries of global design, is the first to offer an account of the vast history of decorative arts, design, and material culture produced in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and the Islamic world from 1400 to the present. Meticulously documented and lavishly illustrated, the volume addresses interiors, furniture, textiles and dress, glass, graphics, metalwork, ceramics, exhibitions, product design, landscape and garden design, and theater and film design. Divided into four chronological sections, each of which is subdivided geographically, the book elucidates the evolution of style, form, materials, and techniques, and address vital issues such as gender, race, patronage, cultural appropriation, continuity versus innovation, and high versus low culture.

History of Design is edited by Pat Kirkham and Susan Weber. Contributors, including BGC faculty and alumni and other leading authorities in design history and decorative arts studies, present hundreds of objects in their contemporary contexts, demonstrating the overwhelming extent to which the applied arts have enriched customs, ceremony, and daily life worldwide over the past six hundred years. Comprehensive and erudite, with widespread appeal, this book is essential reading for scholars, professionals, and students of design, decorative arts, and material culture, while also introducing these subjects to new readers.


Editors

Pat Kirkham

Professor, Bard Graduate Center; Editorial Board: Journal of Design History (1988–1999). She has written widely on design, gender, film, and material culture. Publications range from The London Furniture Trade (1988) to The Gendered Object (editor and contributing author, 2000), and Saul Bass: A Life in Design and Film (2011).


Susan Weber

Director, Founder, and Iris Horowitz Professor, Bard Graduate Center. She has served as editor or co-editor and contributing author to a range of publications, including E.W. Godwin: Aesthetic Movement Architect and Designer (1999), James “Athenian Stuart, 1713–1788: The Rediscovery of Antiquity (2006), The American Circus (2012), and William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain (2013).



Project Editor

Heather Jane McCormick

Doctoral candidate, Bard Graduate Center; past Registrar of the Permanent Collection at the Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Since 1995, she has worked on numerous Bard Graduate Center publications, including Vasemania: Neoclassical Form and Ornament in Europe (contributing author, 2004).



Contributors

John Robert Alderman

Independent art historian and writer on India, contributor to African Elites in India (2006), and author of numerous book reviews about India.


Marcus B. Burke

Senior Curator, The Hispanic Society of America, New York, has written extensively on Spanish and Latin American art and culture. Publications range from Spain and New Spain (1979) to  El Alma de España / The Soul of Spain (2005) and “The Madrazo-Fortuny Family” in Fortuny y Madrazo: An Artistic Legacy (2012). Has taught at the Bard Graduate Center.


Silke Bettermann

Librarian and scholar at the Beethoven-Haus, Bonn, specializing in correlations between fine arts and music. Publications include Naoum Aronson und Ludwig Van Beethoven (2002), “Oriental Themes in the Work of Moritz Von Schwind,” in Facts and Artefacts: Art in the Islamic World (2007), and Beethoven im Bild (2012).


Jeffrey Collins

Professor and Chair of Academic Programs, Bard Graduate Center. Publications include Papacy and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Rome: Pius VI and the Arts (2004), Pedro Friedeberg (contributing author, 2009), and studies of painting, prints, sculpture, architecture, urbanism, museology, furniture, and film.


Aimée E. Froom

Independent scholar, formerly Hagop Kevorkian Associate Curator of Islamic Art, Brooklyn Museum, New York, and former visiting professor at Brown University and the Bard Graduate Center. Publications include Spirit and Life: Masterpieces of Islamic Art from the Aga Khan Museum Collection (2007) and Persian Ceramics from Collections of the Asian Art Museum (2008).


Annette Hagedorn

Independent scholar specializing in Islamic applied arts and European Orientalism in the decorative arts. Publications include Auf der Suche nach dem neuen Stil: Die Einflüsse der osmanischen Kunst auf die europäische Keramik im 19. Jahrhundert (1998), The Phenomenon of “Foreign” in Oriental Art (editor, 2006), and Islamic Art (2009).


David Jaffee

Professor and Head of New Media Research, Bard Graduate Center, specializes in North American material culture. Publications include The New Nation of Goods: Material Culture in Early America (2010) and numerous essays on early American artisans and the visual and material culture of nineteenth-century New York.


Rose Kerr

Honorary Associate of the Needham Research Institute, Cambridge; former Chief Curator of the Far Eastern Department, Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Publications include Ceramic Technology: Science and Civilisation in China (2004), Song China through 21st Century Eyes (2009), and Chinese Export Ceramics (2011).


Patricia Lara-Betancourt

Research Fellow, the Modern Interiors Research Centre, Kingston University, London. Publications include Performance, Fashion and the Modern Interior (co-editor, 2011) and articles on the history of the nineteenth-century drawing room in Colombia.


Christian A. Larsen

Curator, The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami Beach; doctoral candidate and Curatorial Fellow, Bard Graduate Center; former Assistant Curator, Department of Architecture & Design, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Publications include Digitally Mastered (2006–7), 50 Years of Helvetica (2007–8), and Ateliers Jean Prouvé (2008–9).


Dana Leibsohn

Professor, Art Department, Smith College, Northampton, specializes in indigenous visual culture in Spanish America and trans-Pacific trade in the early modern period. Publications include Script and Glyph (2009) and Vistas: Visual Culture in Spanish America, 1520–1820 (with Barbara E. Mundy, 2010).


Sarah A. Lichtman

Assistant Professor of Design History, Parsons, The New School for Design, New York. Graduate of the Masters and Doctoral programs at the Bard Graduate Center. Publications include articles and reviews in The Journal of Design History, Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture, and West 86th.


Andrew Morrall

Professor, Bard Graduate Center; has written widely on the arts and culture of early modern northern Europe. Publications include Jörg Breu the Elder: Art, Culture and Belief in Reformation Augsburg (2002) and English Embroidery from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1580–1700: ’Twixt Art and Nature (co-editor and contributing author, 2008).


George Michell

Independent scholar, trained as an architect and studied Indian art and archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. His publications range from two volumes of The New Cambridge History of India (1993, 1995) to Hindu Art and Architecture (2000) and The Majesty of Mughal Decoration (2007).


Barbara E. Mundy

Associate Professor, Art History, Fordham University, New York. Publications include The Mapping of New Spain (1996), Vistas: Visual Culture in Spanish America, 1520–1820 (with Dana Leibsohn, 2010), Remembering Tenochtitlan: The Transformation of Mexico City (forthcoming).


Amy F. Ogata

Professor, Bard Graduate Center, has written widely on European and American modern architecture and design. Publications include Art Nouveau and the Social Vision of Modern Living: Belgian Artists in a European Context (2001) and Designing the Creative Child: Playthings and Places in Midcentury America (2013).


Jorge F. Rivas Pérez

Associate Curator of Design Exhibition, Latin American Art, LACMA, Los Angeles. Publications include Arte del Período Hispánico Venezolano (2000), Devoción Privada (2004), El Repertorio Clásico en el Mobiliario Venezolano (2007), De Oficio Pintor (2007), and Cornelis Zitman (2011).


Maria Ruvoldt

Assistant Professor, Fordham University, New York. Publications include The Italian Renaissance Imagery of Inspiration: Metaphors of Sex, Sleep, and Dreams (2004), Approaching the Italian Renaissance Interior (contributing author, 2007), and “Michelangelo’s Slaves and the Gift of Liberty” (Renaissance Quarterly), 2012). Has taught at the Bard Graduate Center.


Tomoko Sakomura

Associate Professor of Art History, Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, specializes in the visual culture of late medieval Japan and the relationships between text and image in Japanese art and design. Contributing author to Kazari: Decoration and Display in Japan, 15th–19th Centuries (2002), Asian Games: The Art of Contest (2004), and The Golden Journey: Japanese Art from Australian Collections (2009).


Enid Schildkrout

Curator Emerita, American Museum of Natural History, New York, and former Director of Exhibitions and Publications, Museum for African Art, New York. Publications include African Reflections: Art from Northeastern Zaire (1990), Grass Roots: African Origins of and American Art (2008), and Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria (2009).


Lee Talbot

Curator, Eastern Hemisphere Collections, The Textile Museum, Washington, DC, and doctoral candidate, Bard Graduate Center. Publications include Threads of Heaven: Textiles in East Asian Rituals and Ceremony (2006) and Woven Treasures of Japan’s Tawaraya Workshop (2012).


Sarah Teasley

Reader in Design History and Theory, Royal College of Art, London. She has written widely on design and architecture in modern and contemporary Japan. Publications include Global Design History (co-editor, 2011) and Designing Modern Japan (2013).


Carol Thompson

The Fred and Rita Richman Curator of African Art, High Museum, Atlanta. Exhibitions and publications include: African Art Portfolio, An Illustrated Introduction (1993), For This World and Beyond (2002), and Radcliffe Bailey: Memory as Medicine (2011).


Tom Tredway

Doctoral candidate, Bard Graduate Center. Author of several book chapters and articles on twentieth-century designers and architects, including Eva Zeisel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Paul Rudolph.


Norman Vorano

Curator of Contemporary Inuit Art, Canadian Museum of Civilization; has lectured, taught, and published widely on Indigenous North American arts, museum studies, and modernism. Publications include Inuit Prints, Japanese Inspiration: Early Printmaking in the Canadian Arctic (2011) and Creation and Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art (contributing author, 2013).


Catherine L. Whalen

Assistant Professor, Bard Graduate Center; has written and lectured widely on North American decorative arts, craft, and design; history and theory of collecting; gender and material culture; and vernacular photography.



East Asia 1900–1750


Domestic Environments

A portrait of the scholar Wang Shi-min (1592–1680) and his family provides an image of an upper-class domestic environment in early Qing-dynasty Jiangnan (fig. 7.1). The grandson of a senior grand secretary to the Wanli emperor (r. 1572–1620), Wang rose to high rank in the Ming bureaucracy without ever having passed the civil service examinations. After the Manchu conquest he retired to his family estate in Jiangnan and achieved fame as an artist, while his son Wang Shan (1645–1728) went on to serve the new dynasty as grand secretary to the Kangxi emperor. Although paintings cannot always be relied on as accurate representations of lived reality, this scene depicts physical features common in upper-class homes in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Jiangnan. The most typical form of residential architecture was a sprawling, walled enclosure in which low buildings formed a series of courtyards. The structure of residential buildings in southern China, with latticed windows, verandas, and removable doors, blurred the barrier between indoors and outdoors, enabling living areas to be comfortably extended into courtyards during pleasant weather. The arrangement of domestic space embodied the hierarchies of rank, generation, and gender that defined the Chinese social order, with specific areas coded as public and private, male and female.

Fig. 7.1. Gu Jianlong. Portrait of Wang Shi-min and his family (detail), China, late 17th century. Ink and colors on silk; overall, 13 7/8 x 47 1/8 in. (35.2 x 119.7 cm). Minneapolis Institute of Arts (96.68.2).

Fig. 7.1. Gu Jianlong. Portrait of Wang Shi-min and his family, China, late 17th century. Ink and colors on silk; overall, 13⁷⁄₈ x 47¹⁄₈ in. (35.2 x 119.7 cm). Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton (96.68.2).

The main subject of this painting, the Wang family patriarch, is shown with attendants and adolescent sons in his studio, the area that served as the center of daily activity for upper-class males and the primary locus for their artistic, intellectual, and business pursuits. The women and young children are shown in the women’s quarters in the rear court- yard, a private area where no males other than immediate fam-ily members were allowed. Typically, homes were arranged on a north-south axis facing southward, so the women’s quarters were placed to the north, the direction associated with the yin, or female cosmic principle. All members of the Wang household are surrounded by the accoutrements of upper-class daily life for which the Jiangnan region was renowned, including fine furniture, ceramics, textiles, books, and tea.

These objects, like many that survive from seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century China, originally served practical functions in wealthy households and palaces. Examined within the context of these domestic environments, late Ming and early Qing decorative arts shed light on the lifestyles enjoyed by the elite as well as the historical circumstances and belief systems that informed Chinese material culture. Homes and furnishings shaped everyday life experience in Ming and Qing China, and through their design the Chinese sought to correlate the material world they inhabited with the social and cosmic order they saw as desirable.

THE MAIN HALL

The main hall functioned as the nucleus of an upper-class home in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century China, providing a physical space where family members could commune with each other, society at large, and the numinous world of gods and ancestors. In the main hall the family conducted rituals of ancestor veneration, supplicated the gods, entertained friends and relatives, and celebrated life’s transitions and the passage of time. Whereas in the contemporaneous West, rituals surrounding birth, maturation, marriage, and death often took place outside the home in churches, in Ming and Qing China these rites almost invariably were held in the main halls of family dwellings. The size, embellishment, and furnishing of the main hall visually proclaimed the family’s social status, wealth, and taste. Ming and Qing sumptuary laws dictated the size and decoration of the main halls allowed to various social ranks, with the number of bays (jian, the space defined by four columnar roof supports arranged in a square) indicating the position of the heads of household in the hierarchy. The emperor was permitted halls of nine or more bays in length; dukes, five to seven; first or second rank officials, five with entrance halls of three bays; and so on down the social ladder to commoners, whose main halls could be no larger than three bays. Laws also regulated roof form and decoration—no nonimperial residential building could have double eaves, stepped brackets, painted ceilings, or polychrome roof tiles.

Among the most prevalent forms of furnishings in the main halls of upper-class Chinese homes were long side tables such as in figure 7.2. Centered on the room’s back wall, such a table provided a focal point, and its large size (this example is over 9 feet long) underscored its great symbolic importance. During rituals and ceremonies these tables held incense, food offerings, candles, and ancestral memorial tablets, while for everyday use they could display seasonal flowers, antiques, or other artworks. Made of richly grained huanghuali (a precious hardwood), this table features openwork side panels carved in an unusual composition of paired male and female dragons encircling small baby dragons. Crisply detailed drag- ons and angular scrolls decorate the front spandrels, while the back spandrels are carved less ornately since the table was designed to be placed against a wall. The archaistic, abstracted style of the carved ornament was popular in seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Jiangnan and was paralleled in contemporaneous textile design.

Fig. 7.2. Side table, China, 17th century. Huanghuali hardwood; 39 x 112½ x 20¾ in. (99.1 x 285.8 x 52.7 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1996.339).

Fig. 7.2. Side table, China, 17th century. Huanghuali hardwood; 39 x 112½ x 20¾ in. (99.1 x 285.8 x 52.7 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Florence and Herbert Irving Gift and Rogers Fund, 1996 (1996.339). Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

While long, rectangular side tables were used throughout upper-class residences in Ming and Qing China, those with everted flanges usually were reserved for formal use in the main hall. The use of tables with flared tops in ceremonial contexts extends far back into Chinese history; pictorial ornamentation on an Eastern Zhou (770–221 bc) bronze vessel, for example, shows ritual wine jars placed on long tables with everted flanges, and an intact example made of lacquered wood, strikingly similar in form to Ming and Qing examples, was excavated from a Spring and Autumn Period (770–475 BC) tomb at Zhaoxiang, Dangyang, Hubei province.

Side tables, which featured so prominently in a family’s most public space, were the subject of frequent comment. Texts such as Zun sheng ba jian (Eight Discourses on the Nurturing of Life, 1591; see fig. 1.14), published by the wealthy merchant Gao Lian (act. 1573–81), Zhangwu zhi (Treatise on Superfluous Things, 1621–27) by the scholar Wen Zhenheng (1585–1645), and Xianqing ouji (Occasional Records of Leisurely Sentiment, 1671) by the artist and playwright Li Yu (1610–1680) offered a wealth of information about the design and furnishing of homes as well as the types of objects available for consumption at the time. These writers reveal some of the criteria with which the elite evaluated their surroundings, including perceptions of elegance (ya), antiquity (gu), and refinement (jing), yet opinions regarding how these ideas should be manifested in the physical environment varied from author to author. Wen Zhenheng disparaged side tables like the example in figure 7.2 as tasteless and overly ornate. Decrying what he saw as a decline in aesthetic standards, Wen exhorted readers to avoid long, narrow tables with sharply pointed flanges and elaborate carvings in “vulgar” patterns such as dragons and phoenixes. His opinions not- withstanding, a number of these intricately carved tables have survived, indicating their likely popularity as well as the high quality of their construction. Li Yu, on the other hand, was concerned less with the form of the table than with the objects placed on it. Li opined that it was vulgar to cover side tables with ostentatious objects such as coral branches, pea- cock feathers, and gold or silver vessels, and suggested dis- playing only a single object, such as an interestingly shaped stone, an ancient bronze, or a flower in a vase. According to him, the most important item in furnishing the main hall was the tanghua, the scroll painting that hung above the side table, and he recommended that an object carefully chosen to create harmony with the spirit of the tanghua be placed on the table in front of it.

A folding screen was another essential hall furnishing (fig. 7.3). From ancient times through to the twenty-first century, screens demarcated and divided physical space in Chinese homes; provided protection from drafts; created privacy for sleeping, dressing, and living areas; and enhanced the liv- ing environment with the beauty of their materials and workmanship. Ming and Qing literature and representational arts indicate that high-ranking family members and honored guests typically sat in chairs backed by tall screens during social gatherings in the main hall, and that large screens served as backdrops for ancestral veneration rites as well as family ceremonies and celebrations. Although the historical record testifies to the widespread use of screens in upper-class households, very few have survived intact due to their relatively light construction: thin wooden frames and fragile panels covered with silk or paper.

Fig. 7.3. Folding screen, China, late 17th century. Huanghuali hardwood, ink and colors on silk; each panel, 128¼ x 22¾ x 1³⁄₈ in. (325.8 x 57.8 x 3.5 cm). Minneapolis Institute of Arts (96.124.1a–l).

Fig. 7.3. Folding screen, China, late 17th century. Huanghuali hardwood, ink and colors on silk; each panel, 128¼ x 22¾ x 1³⁄₈ in. (325.8 x 57.8 x 3.5 cm). Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton (96.124.1a–l).

The paintings framed in the twelve-panel screen illustrated here depict a coming-of-age celebration in an upper-class household, a young man’s “capping” ceremony in which long hair was drawn up into the topknot worn by adult males. Through the courtyard compounds of a large mansion, family members make their way to the main hall for the event, the women leaving the “inner quarters” to the north (upper left) and the men departing the studio complex to the east (on the right). In the main hall, the patriarch sits on a silk-draped chair in front of a multipaneled screen, while a silk-covered chair awaits his wife. The wooden panels that directly border the paintings are carved with shou (long life) characters in roundels, each glyph rendered in slightly different script, while the lower register features dramatically stylized shou characters set among writhing dragons. Like so many objects created for use by the elite, this screen graphically illustrates cultural ideals to which upper-class Chinese aspired while articulating specific auspicious wishes for their families. Indeed, the main hall where such a screen would have been displayed often featured an entry flanked by paired calligraphic couplets exhorting Confucian values such as filial piety, harmony, and diligence, along with architectural details carved or painted in symbolic motifs intended to summon good and repel malevolent fortunes.

Despite the frequent appearance of written moral exhortations in the domestic environment, many late Ming and early Qing authors lamented that their countrymen were steadily abandoning the puritanical tenets of Confucianism in favor of more materialistic and sybaritic lifestyles. Their writings relate that lavish banquets and dinner parties became increasingly common among all classes during the seventeenth century, and the utensils and decorations used and entertainments presented at such events became ever more extravagant. Among the most costly and visually conspicuous objects were silk furnishings like the silk hanging and seat cover illustrated here (fig. 7.4 and fig. 7.5). Finely woven fabrics such as these were created in the time-consuming kesi (slit-tapestry) technique, whereby wefts of the individual colors interlace with the warp only where required for the pattern and are not carried from selvage to selvage. Such fabrics with polychrome and gold-wrapped silk yarns represented a significant store of household wealth. Textiles also provided a chief source of color and meaningful pattern in domestic interiors. When all but imperial homes were constructed with wooden beams and columns darkly stained or painted in subdued monochromes, gray floors and roof tiles, and plain whitewashed plaster walls, colorful and richly ornamented silk furnishings stood out prominently against the neutral-toned settings.

Fig. 7.4. Hanging, China, 1600–50. Silk; gilded, lacquered, and paper-wrapped threads, paint; 93¹⁄₈ x 67½ in. (236.5 x 171.3 cm). Art Institute of Chicago (1943.17).

Fig. 7.4. Hanging, China, 1600–50. Silk; gilded, lacquered, and paper-wrapped threads, paint; 93¹⁄₈ x 67½ in. (236.5 x 171.3 cm). Art Institute of Chicago, Florence Ayscough and Harley Farnsworth MacNair Collection (1943.17). Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago.

Like screens, silk hangings could be placed directly behind the seat of honor to emphasize the high status of the sitter. Chinese cosmological beliefs correlated red with happiness, and throughout the Ming and Qing periods red textiles were worn and displayed during joyful occasions such as weddings and birthday celebrations. The motifs depicted against the bright red background of the hanging illustrated in figure 7.4 are replete with meanings that would have been readily understood by contemporaneous viewers. Phoenixes often were associated with the yin, paired birds were common symbols of fidelity and conjugal happiness, and butterflies represented joy and the summer season. The roundels in the top register contain peaches (signifying longevity) and persimmons (connoting joy) as well as a type of scepter known as a ruyi (meaning “as you wish”). Ruyi were common birthday gifts symbolizing a wish for long life and the fulfillment of desires. In Ming and Qing China, bird, flower, and butterfly motifs remained closely associated with women, and a magnificent hanging such as this would have been particularly appropriate for display during birthday celebrations for the matriarch of a wealthy Chinese family. Although women participated actively in family-only events and ceremonies held in the main hall, when male guests from outside the family were present, upper-class women typically remained out of direct view and discreetly observed the proceedings from behind gauze or bamboo partitions.

As illustrated in the scene depicted on the folding screen in figure 7.3, during formal and festive occasions in the main hall distinguished attendees sat on chairs draped with colorful silk covers. In Ming and Qing China, chairs were reserved for family members and guests of high rank; those of insufficient status either stood or sat on stools during social events. The Chinese did not use fixed upholstery, with textiles and padding tacked directly onto the wood, but rather used removable cushions and covers like that shown in figure 7.5. Such items could be easily changed to render furniture appropriate for a specific user, season, or occasion. Although too thin to contribute significantly to the sitter’s physical comfort, silk covers heightened the formality of chairs and elevated the contexts in which they were used.

This type of rectangular chair cover would have covered a yoke-back chair such as that used by Wang Shi-min (see fig. 7.1). With its bold decorative patterning, created by juxtaposing two-dimensional fields of contrasting colors, this chair cover typifies seventeenth-century-style luxury textile design. The dragon motif symbolized imperial rule, with long (five-clawed dragons) appearing on objects made for the emperor himself and mang (four-clawed dragons) on those used by courtiers and high-ranking officials. The central pattern on this chair cover shows a golden mang set within a politically and cosmologically significant landscape of mountains and waves. The designs of the top and bottom registers depict cranes, common symbols of longevity chosen by both the Ming and Qing governments to represent first-rank offi- cials in the civil bureaucracy. While this chair cover’s ornamental patterning expressed notions of a harmoniously integrated political and cosmological order, these shimmering motifs rendered in precious silk and gold contributed to the grandeur of the occasion in which it was used while conspicuously expressing the owner’s material prosperity.


Europe and the Americas 1900–2000


New Materials and Technologies

After 1945, there was considerable interest in using materials developed or radically improved during the war for peacetime production. Both plywood and plastics embodied a belief in progress through science and technology, and both could be shaped into the more sculptural forms of Organic Modernism. Wartime work on plywood splints for wounded sailors had given the Eameses access to top-secret developments in plywood and “super-glues,” which led directly to their molded plywood chairs of 1946. The chairs were widely copied, especially the single dining chair of 1946 (visible in the background of fig. 23.83) and inspired hundreds of other designs, from Gerrit Rietveld’s (1888–1964) Danish chair (1949–50) for Holland’s Metz & Co. and Robin Day’s stackable chairs for Britain’s Hille Company (1950) to Arne Jacobsen’s (1902–1971) Ant chair (1951) for the Danish company Fritz Hansen (fig. 23.81). Teresa Kruszewska’s (b. 1927) Scallop chair and Maria Chomentowska’s (b. 1924) Lungs chair, both designed in Poland in 1956, demonstrate the ubiquity of plywood seating throughout Eastern Europe.

Fig. 23.81. Anne Jacobsen. Ant side chair, Fritz Hansen, Denmark, 1952. Plywood, chrome-plated tubular steel, rubber; 29¹⁄₈ x 21¹⁄₁₆ x 23 in. (73.4 x 53.5 x 58.4 cm). Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Norbert Schoenauer, courtesy of The Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts (AC1992.264.1). Digital Image © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA. Licensed by Art Resource, NY

Fig. 23.81. Anne Jacobsen. Ant side chair, Fritz Hansen, Denmark, 1952. Plywood, chrome-plated tubular steel, rubber; 29¹⁄₈ x 21¹⁄₁₆ x 23 in. (73.4 x 53.5 x 58.4 cm). Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Norbert Schoenauer, courtesy of The Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts (AC1992.264.1). Digital Image © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA. Licensed by Art Resource, NY.

Plastics were used for myriad items, from surfboards to sports cars with fiberglass bodies, such as General Motors’s Chevrolet Corvette (1953), designed by Harley Earl. The Deutsche Demokratische Republik’s (DDR; German Democratic Republic, commonly known as East Germany) compact Trabant (1957) had roof, doors, hood, bumpers, and trunk-lid of lightweight Duroplast, a hard plastic made of recycled cotton waste and phenol resins from dye making, while the Polish Syrena Sport (1960), a two-door prototype sports car designed by Cezary Nawrot (1931–2004), had a fiberglass body.

Fig. 23.82. Roman Modzelewski in a prototype for his fiberglass RM58 armchair, c. 1959–60. Provate collection of Mrs. Wera Modzelewska.

Fig. 23.82. Roman Modzelewski in a prototype for his fiberglass RM58 armchair, c. 1959–60. Provate collection of Mrs. Wera Modzelewska.

Plastics were popular for furniture because they could be readily formed into “biomorphic” shapes. U.S. examples include the Eamses’ fiberglass shell dining chair and armchair (1949 and 1950, respectively) and Eero Saarinen’s elegant, sculptural Womb Chair—he trained as a sculptor as well as an architect—which was upholstered in latex foam and fabric partly for comfort and partly to avoid finishing the fiberglass shell. Saarinen’s integration of seat, back, and arm-rest inspired many other designs, most famously Jacobsen’s Swan and Egg chairs (1957–58). Although access to synthetic materials was limited in Poland, Roman Modzelewski (1912– 1997) and Czeslaw Knothe (1900–1985) pioneered furniture made from synthetic fibers in the late 1950s. Le Corbusier (1887–1965) was interested in mass-producing Modzelewski’s fiberglass chair (1959–60; patented 1961; fig. 23.82), but Polish bureaucracy and Cold War politics intervened, and Le Corbusier died in 1965. Dinnerware made from Melamine (melamine formaldehyde), a hard thermosetting plastic developed in prewar Germany and the United States, was so popular in the 1950s and early 1960s that ceramics manufac-turers, such as Gustavsberg in Sweden and Britain’s Midwin- ter Pottery, began producing lines of plastic products. Russel Wright’s Residential line (1953) proved a best-seller for Northern Plastic Company of Boston, while the DDR, with its well-established chemical industry and access to Soviet oil, supplied the Eastern Bloc with plastic products such as Albert Krause’s rainbow-colored nesting dishes (1959).

Fig. 23.83. Charles and Ray Eames. Living Room, Eames House, Pacific Palisades, Calif., 1958 (designed 1945–49). Photographed by Julius Shulman, with Ray and Charles Eames seated on Indian chairs. Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10). © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (2004.R.10).

Fig. 23.83. Charles and Ray Eames. Living Room, Eames House, Pacific Palisades, Calif., 1958 (designed 1945–49). Photographed by Julius Shulman, with Ray and Charles Eames seated on Indian chairs. Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10). © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (2004.R.10).

Informal Living and Personal Expression

Informal living, with an emphasis on open-plan interiors and easy access between indoors and out, was a key characteristic of postwar life in North America and Western Europe. Mary (c. 1904–1952) and Russel Wright’s Guide to Easier Living (1950) stressed informality, personal expression, open-plan spaces, lightweight and easy-to-clean furnishings, and husbands helping with chores. Wright’s best-selling dinnerware lines American Modern (1937–57) and Casual (1946–67) con- noted and facilitated more modern and informal ways of living. Zeisel’s colorful mass-produced Town and Country earthenware (1947), and Kaj Franck’s heatproof Kilta pieces (1953) helped popularize the notion that items within a line could be mixed and matched in terms of color. Many lines now came in “starter sets” for young homemakers, while sturdy oven-to-table ware added to the informality of meal- times while reducing the number of dirty pots.

Informal clothing also grew in popularity, with U.S. sportswear designers leading the way. Claire McCardell (1905–1958), Clare Potter (1903–1999), Vera Maxwell (1901– 1995), Bonnie Cashin (1907–2000), and others continued to create attractive, affordable, and comfortable clothing that was influential abroad. In Europe, German designer Sonja de Lennart (b. 1920), who was best known for her stylish, casual Capri pants (1948), attracted American celebrity clients along with European ones. In the 1950s, tapered, ankle-baring Capri pants and the more sporty “pedal-pushers” (which came above the calf to clear bicycle chains) epitomized as much as tableware or barbecues the increasingly casual life- style of the postwar period.

Some designers urged homemakers to create and personalize their living environments in what were increasingly standardized and mass-produced homes. Handcrafted, “preindustrial,” and natural objects served as popular visual and cultural counterpoints to what was perceived as the increasing uniformity of modern life. New approaches to home decoration included the juxtaposing of disparate objects from different cultures, continents, and time periods in group settings created to achieve what British architect-designer Peter Smithson (1923–2003) called “extra-cultural surprise.”1 Objects from all over the world were readily available in the 1950s and 1960s in North America and Western Europe, and eclectic groupings of them expressed both the fashionable cultural pluralism of the day and the cultural capital of those who created them. In the example illustrated here, the Eameses mixed items bought abroad with ones available at home, old with new, and found with made (fig. 23.83). Objects from Japan (paper lanterns, combs, and ceramics) mingled with those from India (brasswares, embroidered pillows, and low chairs), Africa (wooden stools), and the United States. The cost or rarity of the items was not a deciding factor in these displays. Indeed, because the aesthetic could be achieved with “found” and cheap objects, from starfish, driftwood, and pebbles to old toys, souvenirs, candlesticks, textiles, and flowers, this type of design was considered democratic because it gave greater agency to homemakers (mainly women) who could personalize and thus humanize living spaces.

Cold War Frameworks

Fig. 23.84. Paul László. Atomville USA, designed 1950 from Paul László, Beverly Hills, California, 1958.

Fig. 23.84. Paul László. Atomville USA, designed 1950 from Paul László, Beverly Hills, California, 1958.

By 1950, both the United States and the USSR had atomic and hydrogen bombs, and fear of Soviet nuclear attacks led Western Bloc governments to institute civil defense programs. Graphic designers conveyed information to fellow citizens about campaigns such as Operation Lifesaver (1955), which included a simulated nuclear attack on the Canadian city of Calgary. Over the border in the United States, Hungarian-born Paul László (1900–1993) envisioned Atomville USA (1950), a city with an underground community center surrounded by a bomb shelter (fig. 23.84). Within this technological utopia, homes were placed underground not only for protection against nuclear fallout but also to provide room for individual home heliports. Benign representations of atomic power cir-culated alongside more dystopic visions. The former included the Ball clock (1948), suggestive of a nucleus surrounded by orbiting electrons designed by the office of U.S. industrial designer George Nelson, the “atomic balls” on Race’s Antelope chair (see fig. 23.78), and Walt Disney Productions’ children’s book Our Friend the Atom (1956) by physicist Heinz Haber, together with an eponymous film and exhibition. At the same time as Erik Nitsche’s (1908–1998) poster preached Atoms for Peace (1955) on behalf of the U.S. nuclear technology firm General Atomics, Swiss designer Hans Erni’s (b. 1909) Atom-krieg Nein (Nuclear War No, 1954) poster featured atomic mushroom clouds emerging from a globe shaped like a human skull. British designer F. H. K. (Frédéric Henri Kay) Henrion’s (1914–1990) Stop Nuclear Suicide poster (1963) used similar imagery and incorporated the peace symbol created for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in 1958 by Gerald Holtom (1914–1985), a British designer and pacifist (fig. 23.85). It became one of the most widely recognized symbols of the second half of the century.

Fig. 23.78. Ernest Race. Antelope bench, Race Furniture Ltd., England, c. 1951. Painted steel rod, plywood; 31¾ x 40¾ x 22¼ in. (80.7 x 103.5 x 56.5 cm). Victoria and Albert Museum, London (W.35-2010). © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Fig. 23.78. Ernest Race. Antelope bench, Race Furniture Ltd., England, c. 1951. Painted steel rod, plywood; 31¾ x 40¾ x 22¼ in. (80.7 x 103.5 x 56.5 cm). Victoria and Albert Museum, London (W.35-2010). © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Attitudes toward consumption, and thus also toward design, shifted in Eastern Bloc countries after the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in 1953 and revelations in 1956 by his successor Nikita Khrushchev about the brutality of Stalinist rule, on the one hand, and fear of internal protest on the other. Even during the resultant “thaw” in the Cold War, however, which led to a period of relative liberalization of official policies between about 1953 and 1968, the rate of production of clothing, home furnishings, and decorative arts objects, let alone cars and televisions, rarely met demand in Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, designers were allowed greater freedom of expression. Furthermore, most decorative arts media, unlike the fine arts, were not considered potentially subversive. Poland and Czechoslovakia enjoyed what have been called design renaissances. Czechoslovakian artistic glass, which drew on the craft skills of the Bohemian glass industry, became famous worldwide. The high quality of Czechoslovakian design in general was reflected in the many prizes won at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair including: reliefs in cut-glass by Stanislav Libenský (1921–2002) and Jaroslava Brychtová (b. 1924), which were inspired by the seeming modernity of ancient cave paintings; the Elka coffee service by Jaroslav Ježek (1923–2002); and the design for “best pavilion” by František Cubr (1911–1976), Josef Hrubý (1906–1998), and Zdeněk Pokorný (1909–1984).

Fig. 23.85. F. H. K. Henrion. Stop Nuclear Suicide poster, for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, England, 1963. Offset lithograph; 29⁷⁄₈ x 19⁷⁄₈ in. (75.8 x 50.4 cm). FHK Henrion Archive, University of Brighton Design Archives. © Henrion Estate. Appears by kind permission of the Henrion Estate.

Fig. 23.85. F. H. K. Henrion. Stop Nuclear Suicide poster, for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, England, 1963. Offset lithograph; 29⁷⁄₈ x 19⁷⁄₈ in. (75.8 x 50.4 cm). FHK Henrion Archive, University of Brighton Design Archives. © Henrion Estate. Appears by kind permission of the Henrion Estate.

Mid-1950s pleas by the Polish architect-designer Jerzy Hryniewiecki (1908–1988) for modern expression and the banishment of ugliness from everyday life were echoed in Polish “New Look” objects, ranging from Danuta Duszniak’s (b. 1926) boldly colored and equally boldly patterned Columbus tea service (1956) to Alicja Wyszogrodzka’s (b. 1928) silkscreen–printed textile, Maidens (1958), featuring stylized women set against a vivid background of green and white stripes (fig. 23.86). By contrast, the main impact of a coffee service by Lubomir Tomaszewski (b. 1922) comes from its sensu-ous shapes (influenced by the Organic Modernism of Zeisel and Wright), elegantly swirling lines of graffiti decoration, and tensions resulting from the interactions between the two.

Eastern European magazines, books, and films of the 1950s and 1960s reveal considerable interest in forging overtly modern lifestyles, from clothing and hairstyles to furniture and textiles. Many of the products emanating from the DDR, including furniture and toys, were coveted elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc for their design and high quality of manufacture. The magazine Die Neue Mode (New Fashion) promoted fashionable dress, and fashion-show films were screened in factories and community centers in several Eastern Bloc countries. The stylish garments shown were usually only available to a small minority, including prominent Communist Party officials, but many women sewed or knitted items using patterns. Clothing bought in the West by those allowed to travel, or smuggled in, also influenced domestic design, and second-hand and black (and gray) markets thrived. Furthermore, as elsewhere during times of scarcity, a headscarf worn differently or a hemline shortened or lengthened could be used to signal modernity.

Despite the massive U.S. investment in military and space programs, in 1959 during the so-called Kitchen Debate between United States Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev about the merits of capitalism and communism, Nixon chose not to focus on technology. Only two years earlier, the launch of Sputnik 1, the first unmanned satellite, into space had confirmed the perception of Soviet scientific and technological preeminence. Instead, Nixon emphasized capitalism’s ability to create an abundance of consumer goods, an area where the United States far outstripped any other nation in terms of per capita owner- ship. The ideological power of goods was nowhere more evident than in the yellow model kitchen by General Electric at the American National Exhibition in Moscow (1959, design directed by George Nelson for the United States Information Agency), which gave the “Kitchen Debate” its name because much of the discussion took place there. His bluster at the time notwithstanding, Khrushchev thereafter paid greater attention to consumer desires, as did other Eastern Bloc leaders, if only as a means of controlling dissent.

Fig. 23.86. Alicja Wyszogrodzka. Maidens skirt fabric (detail), Industrial Design Institute Silkscreen Workshop, Warsaw, 1958. Silkscreened cotton; overall, 31 x 108¼ in. (79 x 275 cm). Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (Wzr.t.850 MNW). From Anna Demska, Anna Frackiewicz, and Anna Maga, We Want to Be Modern: Polish Design, 1955–1968, from the Collection of the National Museum in Warsaw, 2011.

Fig. 23.86. Alicja Wyszogrodzka. Maidens skirt fabric (detail), Industrial Design Institute Silkscreen Workshop, Warsaw, 1958. Silkscreened cotton; overall, 31 x 108¼ in. (79 x 275 cm). Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (Wzr.t.850 MNW). From Anna Demska, Anna Frackiewicz, and Anna Maga, We Want to Be Modern: Polish Design, 1955–1968, from the Collection of the National Museum in Warsaw, 2011.

Most Westerners welcomed access to an abundance of consumer goods, but some people felt that displays of materialism, such as the exhibition in Moscow, reflected badly on the United States as a nation. Wider concerns about excessive consumption, waste, industrial and environmental pollution, and the relentless pressure on consumers from manufacturers via the advertising industry were voiced by critics, including Vance Packard (1914–1996), whose The Hidden Persuaders (1957), The Status Seekers (1959), and The Waste Makers (1960) critiqued planned obsolescence, manipulative advertising, and status anxiety or “keeping up with the Joneses.”