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A CENTURY OF DESIGN, PART I: 1900-1925

December 14, 1999 — March 26, 2000
Gallery for Modern Design and Architecture, Lila Acheson Wallace Wing, first floor

A Century of Design, Part I: 1900-1925 — the first in a four-part series of exhibitions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art surveying design in the 20th century — will present some of the Museum's finest examples of furniture, metalwork, glass, ceramics, textiles, jewelry, and drawings from the first quarter of the 1900s. Highlighting the Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco movements, the exhibition will be on view in the Metropolitan Museum's Gallery for Modern Design and Architecture from December 14, 1999, through March 26, 2000.

Approximately 40 objects created by many of the best-known European and American architects and designers of their time, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Josef Hoffmann, Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, and Jean Dunand, will be arranged thematically and stylistically.

The Arts and Crafts movement, initiated in England during the second half of the 19th century, aimed to reassert the importance of craftsmanship in the face of mechanization and mass production. Initially under the direction and influence of William Morris, handmade textiles, books, wallpaper, furniture, and housewares became the order of the day. By the turn of the century, British, American, and German designers — the movement had spread widely from its English origins — turned their designs over to workshop operations that specialized in handmade objects, such as the Guild of Handicraft in London. Included in the exhibition will be a silver and chrysoprase Porringer and Spoon (1902-04) by Charles Robert Ashbee (British, 1863-1942) and a stained beech armchair (ca. 1900) by Richard Riemerschmid (German, 1868-1957).

The rise of Art Nouveau in Western Europe and the United States, from 1890 through the First World War, was a reaction to the academic "historicism" of 19th-century art. With its roots in France and Belgium and its name derived from a Paris gallery, Art Nouveau is characterized by sinuous, asymmetrical lines based on plant forms — design elements that lend themselves well to the medium of glass. In addition to furniture, ceramics, and works in bronze, A Century of Design, Part I will include a delicate "Autumn Crocus" Vase (ca. 1900) by Emile Gallé (French, 1846-1904) and a "Slottsglass" Footed Bowl (1918) by Swedish designer Simon Gate (1883-1945).

The furniture and objects produced by the Austrian Wiener Werkstätte — literally "Vienna Workshop" — are characterized by a dual emphasis on both usefulness and aesthetic quality. Founded in 1902 and lasting until 1932, its leading designers were Austrians Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956), Kolomon Moser (1868-1918), and Otto Prutscher (1880-1949). Objects by Hoffmann in the exhibition include a silvered alpaka, glass, and copper table lamp made in 1904, and a geometrically inspired armchair, designed with Kolomon Moser, of 1903.

By the dawn of the Roaring Twenties, the new and fashionable Art Deco style — which derives its name from the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris in 1925 — had emerged from France, in great part as a response to the perceived excesses of Art Nouveau. Art Deco designs were sleek, geometric and stylized, frequently incorporating luxury materials. Enormously popular through the 1930s, its influence spread from decorative arts to architecture, jewelry, and clothing. In addition to furniture by such designers as Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann (French, 1879-1933) and Louis Süe (French, 1875-1968) and dinanderie, or hand-raised metalwork, by Jean Dunand (French, 1877-1942), objects in the exhibition will include textiles by Paul Poiret (French, 1879-1944) and Paul Vera (French, 1882-1958).

The exhibition is curated by J. Stewart Johnson, Consultant for Design and Architecture in the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Modern Art, with the assistance of Jane Adlin, Curatorial Assistant, and Jared Goss, Senior Research Assistant. Exhibition design is by Michael Batista, Exhibition Designer.

The series of exhibitions begun by A Century of Design, Part I will continue with A Century of Design, Part II: 1925 — 1950, from May 9 — October 29, 2000; A Century of Design, Part III: 1950-1975, from November 2000 - April 2001; and A Century of Design, Part IV: 1975-2000, from May — September 2001.

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November 10, 1999

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