Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs 1851-1939 TOUR OUTLINE

Mint Museum UPTOWN Special Exhibition

Grades: 5-12

The key to a meaningful tour experience is letting visitors look, observe, and respond before giving information.


What do you think this exhibition is about? Let’s look at the title—Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851-1939. o Groundbreaking—first comprehensive exhibition of design and ingenuity in decorative arts at the world’s fairs— 1851 to New York 1939. o Organized loosely by date—“look” of the galleries change as we move forward in time.

World’s Fairs, for the first time in history, gave manufacturers, designers, and the public immediate access to objects, materials, and technologies from around the world—India, the Middle East, China, Japan, Europe, America, Africa, and beyond. This confluence of cultures left an indelible mark on design and production of the decorative arts.

Essential Question 1: How does the art we are seeing today reflect history, culture, and ideas?

Decorative art objects are reflections of cultural ideas and cross-cultural influences.

The succession of 19 c. historic revival styles—Gothic, Rococo—coincided with the advancement of modern machine production in the west. The effect was affordable, popular goods that reflected invention and historical design. Revivalism became a platform for debuting invention. Designers innovated with new materials and techniques, but used historic designs.

National identity was evident in objects that drew upon national symbols, motifs, resources, and techniques. Objects might reference the distant—and sometimes mythical—past, or look ahead to a country’s bright future.

The Mint Museum Charlotte, North Carolina | 704.337.2000 | Essential Question 2: How does design innovation enhance our lives?

Design innovation encouraged mass production/manufacture of objects; decorative art objects feature new and traditional materials and new technology combined to create innovative designs. In contrast to designers who innovated with new materials/technology, some designers innovated with new design, but used established, traditional materials—new technologies applied to old materials.

Ingenuity and creativity through modern manufacturing was a common thread from 1851 to 1939. Inventive materials and manufacturing processes—such as cast iron, steam-bent wood, plastics, and plate glass—transformed everyday life, creating a wider range of products for public consumption. Promoted the idea that you could have a better life through the consumption of technology and design—if you owned them, your life would be better.

o World’s fairs were important global forums for debuting technological advancements and defining fashionable tastes. o For the visitor, it was like our internet! It was where you went to see the latest—from steam engines to new breeds of cow. o For businesses, it was a big deal to be invited—it meant you had contributed significantly to your nation through productive innovation. o For the country (participant or host)—it meant you were progressive and served as a source of national pride.

The objects were / are… o Innovative and modern in their own time. Many still impact us today.

Note to Teachers: This is a suggested tour outline to help docents structure and design the tour. The outline includes many more works of art than can be discussed during a one-hour tour. Docents may choose from among the objects contained in the outline, or select additional objects and develop new questions and approaches to discussions, but will be sure to incorporate the above tour objectives/concepts.

Inventing the Modern World Decorative Arts at the World’s F a i r s 1851- 1939 P a g e | 2


Gebrüder Thonet, Austria (), 1853–1921 Rocking Chair No. 10, designed circa 1860, Painted beech with cane High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Using bent wood, cabinetmaker-founder Michael Thonet introduced sturdy, lightweight, inexpensive furniture. With efficiencies in mind, he lowered assembly costs by selecting woods (beech) based on their performance characteristics (strong, lightweight, flexible), using steam power to bend them, eliminating carving, reducing the number of components in each design, and introducing interchangeable parts. Marketing, mass production, interchangeable parts—anticipated a world-wide audience—“café chairs” are seen around the world today—long before IKEA—ship these chairs around the world inexpensively by mass producing parts, packing in crates, assemble onsite. Today same chairs are made by the same process (same factories).

R. W. Winfield, England (Birmingham), 1829–circa 1896 Rocking chair, circa 1850 Painted and gilded iron with modern upholstery The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York

R. W. Winfield’s rocking chair is an example of both ergonomic design and technological prowess. Through innovatively manipulating iron, Winfield created an object that conforms to the shape of the human body while offering a relaxed, controlled movement. The flattened metal is painted to imitate wood grain, while the curves borrow from the exuberant scrolls of the 18th-century Rococo style. The design of the chair was likely an influence on the sinuous bentwood creations of Michael Thonet. Uses materials in a new way—iron made the Industrial Revolution possible. The 19th century consumer was interested in objects that are decorative and durable (iron)—painted to look like wood. The medium was versatile— pushing the boundaries—ergonomic design—simplicity of form.

IF you have already been to the 3rd floor – compare these two chairs to the Breuer Long Chair.


 Take a moment to look closely at these two objects.  Compare and contrast rockers with “Presidential rocker;” curves v. perpendicular lines.  Compare caning and upholstery—what do they suggest about use?  Why paint the iron to look like wood?

Inventing the Modern World Decorative Arts at the World’s F a i r s 1851- 1939 P a g e | 3


Gustave Herter, American (born ), 1830–1898; Ernst Plassmann, woodcarver, American, 1823–1877; Bulkley and Herter, maker, United States (New York, New York), circa 1852–1858 Bookcase, 1852–1853, White oak, Eastern white pine, Eastern hemlock, and yellow poplar with modern stained glass The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

Displayed at the 1853 Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations in New York, the first world’s fair in America, this monumental bookcase is decorated with intricately carved Gothic spires, arches, buttresses, and figures representing the arts of sculpture, painting, music, and architecture. Gustave Herter, who had only recently arrived in New York, brought with him the latest fashions from Germany, including the stylish Gothic Revival. As seen on this bookcase, the Gothic Revival had obvious associations with the medieval past; in America in particular, it instilled European legitimacy on a young nation’s heritage. 1853 in New York, US wants to represent in a bigger way. Revival of gothic motifs popular—US associated all that was refined about Europe with Gothic.

IF you have already been to the 3rd floor – compare this to the modern-styled Frankl Bookcase.


 Take a moment to look closely at this object.  Show images of Notre Dame Cathedral for comparison.  Why does he use the visual style of the Gothic church? Connected to the Middle Ages time period.  Why would a 19th century designer try to make a bookcase look like it was from 14th century?  Do you think he was successful in doing this?

Inventing the Modern World Decorative Arts at the World’s F a i r s 1851- 1939 P a g e | 4


India (Brahmapur) Chair and Stool, c. 1855, Ebony with Ivory and Modern Upholstery Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The form is European; motifs are Indian. The armchair and ottoman illustrate the English, mid-19th century fashion for French Rococo designs, interpreted in an idiosyncratic way. Fabricated in Brahmapur, north central India, the works feature extraordinary carving in the European-style ivory acanthus-leaf framework that surrounds the chair back, the elephant head armrest supports that terminate in lion heads, and the delicate pierced ivory, imitating passementerie (the art of making elaborate trimmings or edgings (in French, passements) of applied braid, gold, or silver cord, embroidery, silk). Further ornamentation is provided in the heavy inlay of abstracted foliage in the ebony framework, the chair back and scroll supports, and the seat frame. This work reflected the readiness of Indian manufacturers to enter the international market place with goods that appealed to European tastes.


 Take a moment to look closely at this object.  Why would an Indian designer want to blend styles to make a chair look mostly European?  Why did they still include some Indian motifs and materials?

Inventing the Modern World Decorative Arts at the World’s F a i r s 1851- 1939 P a g e | 5


Fukagawa Yeizaemon, Japanese, 1833–1889 Vase, circa 1875 Glazed and enameled porcelain Philadelphia Museum of Art Shown at the Centennial International Exhibition, Philadelphia, 1876

The dynamic scene on this vase, made for the Western market, demonstrates not only the European taste for asymmetrical compositions of exotic landscapes but also the introduction of Western glaze technology. New colors, some achieved with the inclusion of uranium, were first introduced by a German chemist named Gottfried Wagener in the 1870s. The vivid purples, pinks, and greens transformed the appearance of Japanese ceramics.

IF you have already been to the 3rd floor – compare this to the modern Japanese vase on the 3rd floor.


Compare and contrast decorative surfaces:

Unornamented surfaces are an essential part of the Japanese decorative repertoire. Plain surfaces are valued as highly as patterned, just as the silences in classical Japanese music are thought to be as important as the notes played. 'Quiet' space provides a balance to 'noisy' ornament.

Inventing the Modern World Decorative Arts at the World’s F a i r s 1851- 1939 P a g e | 6


Karl L. H. Müller, designer, American (born Germany), 1820–1887; Union Porcelain Works, manufacturer, United States (Greenpoint, Brooklyn), 1863– circa 1922 Pedestal, 1876, Porcelain Century Vase, 1876, Porcelain with enamel and gilding High Museum of Art, Atlanta; National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution; Shown together at the Centennial International Exhibition, Philadelphia, 1876

Manufactured exclusively for the 1876 exhibition, the Century Vase and pedestal were the most ambitious examples of American porcelain yet cast. The vase is laden with nostalgic images from America’s rich past and scenes of modern progress. The unmistakable profile of George Washington observes depictions of William Penn’s treaty with Native Americans and the Boston Tea Party as well as a fast- moving steamboat and sewing machine. The juxtaposition of opposing subjects creates a unique composition enlivened by beautifully executed polychrome, gilding, and shallow relief sculpting. In contrast, the pedestal is adorned with classical motifs related to Greek drama and a color scheme imitating early 19th-century jasperware by the English firm Wedgwood. United States romanticizes its past (“everything is great!”), while also highlighting the bounty of the land and its natural resources. Symbolism and imagery on pedestal: classical imagery to show State’s democratic foundations.


 Take a moment to look closely at this object.  What symbols do you notice?  How do the motifs on the pedestal relate?  Why would the designer use these motifs on the pedestal?

Inventing the Modern World Decorative Arts at the World’s F a i r s 1851- 1939 P a g e | 7

◙ Stop 2D: ART NOUVEAU  ’s new artistic language—move away from revival to more modern aesthetic—no reference to the past—inspired by nature and Japan—a-symmetrical, naturalistic, undulating lines;  known materials used in new way—iron, wood, ceramic;  Bing’s L’Art Nouveau gallery in as the source of the term—set up at Paris 1900.

Louis Majorelle, French, 1859–1926 Cabinet, circa 1900, Kingwood, mahogany, and amaranth with various woods, gilded bronze, and modern textile Indianapolis Museum of Art Model shown at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900

At the 1900 Paris fair, Louis Majorelle displayed his mastery of a variety of materials, creating dynamic silhouettes in media ranging from wrought iron to wood. Majorelle’s cabinet vaunts the undulating forms and whiplash curves that characterize the Art Nouveau, as well as the ingenious design and solid construction that distinguished him from his peers. His marquetry technique and sumptuous bronze mounts borrow from 18th-century French Rococo furniture, but their organic fluidity demonstrates the contemporary aesthetic.

Hector Guimard, designer, French, 1867–1942; Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, manufacturer France (Sèvres), 1756–present Vase des Binelles, 1903 Glazed stoneware The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund, 1994.107 Shown at the Louisiana Purchase International Exposition, St. Louis, 1904

The sparkling crystalline glaze on the monumental Vase des Binelles was “discovered” accidentally by chemists at the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory in 1885. Ironically, it was viewed as a mistake and was not embraced by the factory as a legitimate glaze until 1898. Crystalline wares impressed critics at the 1900 Paris exposition, and the finish was applied to many of the firm’s new forms, including this vase designed by architect Hector Guimard. The strong, organic shape displays a mastery of sinuous lines. Standing four feet tall, the vase was a feat in porcelain manufacture, and was lauded for its sheer scale and sophisticated design, which is closely related to Paris’s most distinctive Art Nouveau structures—the Metro station entrances that Guimard designed for the 1900 fair.


Drawing activity - requires paper and pencil

 Divide your group in half and have one group drawing the Cabinet and one group draw the vase. Start at the bottom of the piece and follow the winding decorative line in your drawing…  Why would the designer use a nature/organic line to form their piece?  For a contrasting object – Zaire centerpiece bowl, 3rd floor with its geometric lines and art deco styling.

Inventing the Modern World Decorative Arts at the World’s F a i r s 1851- 1939 P a g e | 8


Hashio Kiyoshi (Kajimoto Seizaburo), Japanese, 1888–1963 Morning Sea, 1915, Silk and lacquered wood Allentown Art Museum, Pennsylvania Shown at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, 1915

Painstakingly embroidered with 250 shades of silk thread, Morning Sea shimmers as light plays across the image of a turbulent ocean. Without a narrative and with an ambiguous vantage point, Morning Sea was influenced by contemporary Post-Impressionist painting in Europe as well as concurrent advancements in modern photography. Hashio Kiyoshi won a gold medal for the screen at the 1915 San Francisco exposition; the composition might be viewed as a statement on the turbulence and uncertainty of modern life, particularly since the 1915 fair occurred after the onset of World War I.


 Take a moment to look closely at this object.  Discuss with the group what descriptive adjectives would you use to describe this piece?  Pick a pair of words that come up in the discussion like Calm/Turbulent and divide the group into one Calm group and one Turbulent group and look and find evidence to share for your agreement.  Why would the designer use this labor intensive process to embroidery this piece instead of painting it?

Inventing the Modern World Decorative Arts at the World’s F a i r s 1851- 1939 P a g e | 9


Carlo Bugatti, Italian, 1865–1940 Cobra chair, 1902, Parchment-covered wood with paint, pencil, and copper Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Model shown at the Prima Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Decorativa Moderna,Turin, 1902

This engaging chair was originally designed for a complete room installation by Carlo Bugatti at the 1902 Turin fair, the first World’s Fair devoted exclusively to the decorative arts. Bugatti created a dynamic form that blurred the boundaries of sculpture and functional design with a revolutionary assembling technique decades ahead of its time. Composite wooden elements were joined and shaped to create a curving silhouette that anticipated cantilevered Art Deco designs in bentwood and metal. Bugatti unified the various parts with stretched and joined parchment painted with images of stylized insects. Bugatti—a family known for car design. Design of objects and interiors in which they existed—installation of a room added to the spectacle of the overall design at the fairs. It’s not just about decoration —it’s also meant to be functional. Move away from art nouveau towards modernism. It’s symmetrical/geometrical, but still naturalistic.


 Take a moment to look closely at this object.  Is this a functional object, yes or no?  What evidence do you have for your observation?


Miyagawa Kōzan, Japanese, 1842–1916 Vase, circa 1904 Glazed porcelain The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore Shown at the Louisiana Purchase International Exposition, St. Louis, 1904

The blossoming plum tree and fluid calligraphy lines on this vase demonstrate the imaginative genius of ceramic artist Miyagawa Kōzan. One of his most impressive technical innovations was the development of the kiritōshi (cut through) process, whereby areas of the ceramic body were removed, replaced with porcelain paste, and then re-fired. This vase with kiritōshi decoration helped Kōzan win the grand prize at the 1904 St. Louis fair. The characters recount a traditional Japanese poem about a nightingale, making this object an important example of Japanese nationalism at the fairs.

IF you have already been to the 4th floor – compare this to the elaborately decorated Japanese vase made for the Western market.

Inventing the Modern World Decorative Arts at the World’s F a i r s 1851- 1939 P a g e | 10


Story & Clark, manufacturer United States (Grand Haven, Michigan), 1857–present; RCA- Victor, manufacturer United States (Camden, New Jersey), under name 1929–1986 Storytone piano and stool with radio and phonograph, 1939; Walnut, chrome, original leather, plastic, ivory, ebony, and electronics The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida; Shown at the New York World’s Fair, 1939

The electronics company RCA-Victor and piano maker Story & Clark collaborated to create the world’s first electric piano, an object that promotes the machine ideal in form and function. Debuted at the 1939 New York fair, the piano amplifies sound through a speaker system disguised behind bold, streamlined Art Deco detailing, suggestive of movement and modernity. The bench incorporates a radio and phonograph. Story & Clark advertised the piano’s clarity of tone with daily recitals in the RCA-Victor pavilion, whereas RCA also promoted its new television receiver.

IF you have already been to the 4thrd floor—compare and contrast with Pianoforte from 4th floor.

Paul T. Frankl, American (born Austria), 1886–1958 Skyscraper desk and bookcase, circa 1928, Plywood with walnut veneer Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Designs by artist shown at A Century of Progress International Exposition, , 1933

Paul T. Frankl’s novel designs mimic the impressive skyscrapers that arose in and Chicago in the early years of the 20th century. With this object, Frankl achieved his goal of creating a distinctly American product—constructed of a wood native to the United States and based upon a quintessentially American style of architecture. The geometric silhouette, free of painted decoration or moldings, reinforces the Modernist aesthetic that was vastly popular following the 1925 Paris world’s fair. Distinctly American aesthetic based on quintessentially American architecture. Companies relied on designers to create enticing new products in an effort to stimulate consumer demand. Reflected optimism in a future where their designs would reshape every aspect of life for the better, from domestic spaces to mass transit and city infrastructures.

IF you have already been to the 4thrd floor—compare and contrast with Herter bookcase from 4th floor.


What is Modernism? Designers moved away from detailed surfaces to simple forms that showcased new materials. Design saw an ideological shift from keepsake mentality to flexibility, efficiency.

Compare and contrast similar objects between the two floors and the room environments of the two installations. Inventing the Modern World Decorative Arts at the World’s F a i r s 1851- 1939 P a g e | 11


Gilbert Rohde, designer, American, 1884–1944; Herman Miller Furniture Company, manufacturer United States (Zeeland, Michigan), 1923–present Vanity and ottoman, 1934, Painted white holly, red English elm, yellow poplar, chromium- plated steel, mirrored glass, Bakelite, and original wool upholstery Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut Model shown at A Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, 1933

Gilbert Rohde employed sleek, curved lines in this elegant vanity and ottoman, part of the fashionably modern furnishings for the House of Tomorrow, shown at the 1933 Chicago world’s fair. The reductive forms emphasize the innovative materials such as Bakelite and tubular steel, while the geometric orientation has an affinity with the Modernist skyscraper. Plastics—made possible by chemical innovations by Leo Bakeland—Bakelite first truly synthetic polymer—strong, heat resistant, decorative colors (popular with women consumers).

IF you have already been to the 4thrd floor—compare and contrast Vanity and ottoman with silver dressing table and stool on 4th floor.

Gilbert Rohde, designer, American, 1894–1944; Herman Miller Clock Company, manufacturer United States (Zeeland, Michigan), 1927–1937 Z-Clock, 1933, Glass, enamel, and chromium-plated steel Dallas Museum of Art Shown at A Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, 1933

In its use of new materials and dynamic composition, the Z-Clock designed by Gilbert Rohde is an original in American Modernist design. Its streamlined form is consistent with the progressive ideals of the 1930s fairs. The transparent glass face seems to float on the chromium-plated tubular steel support that thrusts skyward. The resulting effects of lightness and minimal structure place the design in the company of Rohde’s other furniture as well as earlier cantilevered works by Marcel Breuer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.


 Look closely at these objects.  What forms or structure do these pieces remind you of?  Why do you think the designer believed the objects would be popular with consumers?

Inventing the Modern World Decorative Arts at the World’s F a i r s 1851- 1939 P a g e | 12


Marcel Breuer, designer, American (born Hungary), 1902–1981; Isokon Furniture Company, manufacturer, England (London), 1935–1939 Long chair, 1936, Plywood Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Model shown at the Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco, 1939

In the 1930s, plywood reemerged as an avant-garde medium for designers interested in developing radical new forms that were functional, industrially produced, and appropriate to modern life. A direct descendant of the bentwood chairs pioneered a century earlier by Michael Thonet, this chair designed by Marcel Breuer is not only progressive in appearance but also, according to its manufacturer, ergonomically shaped to provide “scientific relaxation to every part of the body, immediately creating a feeling of well-being.” Breuer himself was concerned with comfort, resilience, and modern materials suitable for mass production. The long chair is a brilliant synthesis of these ideals.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, designer, German, 1886–1969 Knoll International, Inc., manufacturer, United States (New York, New York), 1938–present Barcelona chair, designed 1929, manufactured 1988, Aluminum and leather The Mint Museum Model shown at L’Exposición Internacional de Barcelona, 1929

One of the most renowned architects of the Bauhaus movement, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe directed the German presentation at the 1929 Barcelona exposition, designing three pavilions. His German pavilion attracted the most attention, not only for its architecture but also for the so-called Barcelona chair. It has become an iconic symbol of 20th-century design, still produced today. It combines the industrial nature of flattened aluminum with an interpretation of the ancient Greek klismos chair. The chair had broad appeal, influencing countless industrial designers of the 1930s.

IF you have already been to the 4thrd floor—compare and contrast chairs from 4th floor.


 Look closely at the objects.  Compare and contrast materials and form.  Compare to Thonet and Winfield rockers: new material of plywood –known material in new form.

Inventing the Modern World Decorative Arts at the World’s F a i r s 1851- 1939 P a g e | 13


Attributed to Louis Dierra, designer, American, active circa 1939; Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., manufacturer, United States (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), 1883–present Chair, circa 1939, Glass with synthetic upholstery Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Model shown at the New York World’s Fair, 1939

Visitors to the Miracle of Glass pavilion at the 1939 New York world’s fair would have encountered a strikingly modern model dining room with six chairs like this one arranged around a glass-topped dining table. The innovative chair frames of slumped plate glass were manufactured by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. with seats originally upholstered with Fiberglas fabric. Although heralded by House and Garden magazine as one of “the decorative prophecies that will shape our World of Tomorrow,” glass furniture did not capture the public imagination; its weight and fragility made it impractical for daily use. 1939 boasted the World of Tomorrow, the home of tomorrow---Projected vision of a better tomorrow, especially because (or in spite) the country was gripped by economic depression and political unrest. Manufacturers touted glass as fresh, bright, and hygienic, therefore ideal for the modern home. Chair made from new, structurally strong glass—very heavy but it wasn’t that PPG necessarily wanted to make thousands of them; it was to get the public to think more about having glass in their homes.


 Look closely at these objects.  What forms or structure do these pieces remind you of?  Why do you think the designer/manufacturer believed the objects would be popular with consumers?

Inventing the Modern World Decorative Arts at the World’s F a i r s 1851- 1939 P a g e | 14