May 1, 2011: Featuring more than forty items from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection of American and European decorative arts, 19th-Century Modern will focus on the emergence of Modernism, an aesthetic based in part on the machine as a source of artistic inspiration. The installation will include objects from the early nineteenth century to the twentieth century to demonstrate the theme.
Although this new machine aesthetic began in the early nineteenth century, it wasn’t until the last quarter of the century that the trend towards modernist design accelerated. In addition to differences in the appearance of objects, there were important modifications in how objects were produced and marketed. The works in the installation illustrate the development of the modern industrial world and the emergence of a taste for abstraction. Designers and consumers began to appreciate simple decoration based either on geometry or organic curves. Naturalistic depictions of nature continued to characterize conservative design and surface decoration, but a taste for more abstract design slowly emerged. This can be seen in the furniture, architecture, and object designs of Frank Lloyd Wright in the United States, Charles Rennie Macintosh in Great Britain, and Josef Hoffmann in Austria, as well as in the Cubist paintings of Picasso and his circle in France.
Among the items on view will be furniture by John Henry Belter, Duncan Phyfe, the Thonet Brothers, Samuel Gragg, Bradley & Hubbard, and George Hunzinger; silver objects by Tiffany & Company, Gorham Manufacturing, Elsa Tennhardt, and Napier; English earthenware; and a five-piece clock garniture manufactured in France by Guilmet.
The installation 19th-Century Modern is organized by Barry H. Harwood, Curator, Decorative Arts, Brooklyn Museum.
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