Partners In Design: Alfred H. Barr Jr. and Philip Johnson Examines The Establishment of Modernism in North America

  • Philip Johnson and Alfred Barr, Lake Maggiore, Switzerland, April 1933.  ©The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, New York

    Philip Johnson and Alfred Barr, Lake Maggiore, Switzerland, April 1933. ©The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, New York

    Davis Museum at Wellesley College

The Davis Museum at Wellesley College presents Partners in Design: Alfred H. Barr Jr. and Philip Johnson, the first exhibition to explore a pivotal development in the evolution of American design: the collaboration between the first director of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Alfred Barr, and Philip Johnson, MoMA’s first curator of architecture. Wellesley College played a key role in their alliance: Barr taught the first-ever undergraduate courses in modern art at Wellesley, including the far ranging and multi-disciplinary course, “Tradition and Revolt in Modern Painting,” before going on to lead MoMA; Johnson’s mother received both the BA and MA degrees from the College, in 1892 and 1900; the two men met at the Wellesley graduation of Johnson’s favorite sister, Theodate, in 1929.

“Together these men endeavored to bring modernism to North America,” said Dr. Lisa Fischman, Ruth Gordon Shapiro ’37 Director of the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. “Through Barr and Johnson, the innovative ideals of rational and functional design developed at the Bauhaus reshaped the contours of American life; and they continue to have an enormous impact on arts and design today.”

The exhibition features approximately 60 icons of modern design, including objects from both the Bauhaus and the New Bauhaus, as well as rarely exhibited items such as Lurelle Guild’s Wear-Ever coffee pot, Gustav B. Jensen’s sleekly industrial kitchen sink, and an aluminum outboard propeller.

The exhibition also includes furniture from Barr’s and Johnson’s apartments, as well as an array of objects from the team’s influential exhibitions at MoMA: Modern Architecture, Machine Art, Bauhaus: 1919–1928, and the Useful Objects series. These exhibitions introduced a broader audience to new ways of thinking about domestic space and design in the twentieth century.

In conjunction with Partners in Design, the Davis Museum created a free teaching guide available to the public that introduces families to key ideas about design and modernism through facilitated conversation and creative prompts. The guide will be available on the Davis Museum website.

Partners in Design was organized by the Liliane and David M. Stewart Program for Modern Design, Montréal, in collaboration with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. For the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Partners in Design and related programs are generously supported by the Sandra Cohen Bakalar ‘55 Fund, the Alice Gertrude Spink Art Fund (1963), and Wellesley College Friends of Art at the Davis.


Fall Opening Celebration

Wednesday, September 28 | 6–9 p.m. | Davis Lobby and Galleries

The Davis and the Wellesley College community host a festive reception to celebrate the unveiling the new permanent collections galleries—“the Davis. ReDiscovered”— and opening of the fall special exhibitions, Partners in Design: Alfred H. Barr Jr. and Philip Johnson, Charlotte Brooks at LOOK 1951 ­ 1971, and Anni Albers Connections. The event takes place in the Davis Museum lobby, complete with complimentary snacks, beverages and a DJ.


Lecture:The Philip Johnson Glass House: An Architect in the Garden

Wednesday, October 26 | 6:30 p.m. | Collins Cinema

Maureen Cassidy­Geiger ‘78 will give an illustrated presentation of her new book, The Philip Johnson Glass House: An Architect in the Garden, the first comprehensive history of the architect’s sublime 49­acre suburban estate, evolved between 1946 and 2005, in partnership with David Whitney. Known chiefly for its iconic centerpiece, the site features a dozen Johnsonian follies, sculptures by Donald Judd and Julian Schnabel, three ‘antique’ houses, and a pastoral landscape of meadows, marshland, mature trees, and historic rock walls. A magnet for architects, artists and high society, the Glass House was, at once, salon, showpiece, and laboratory. It was also a fertile setting for a succession of short-lived gardens designed and tended by Whitney over four decades.

Maureen Cassidy-Geiger ‘78 is an internationally recognized curator, scholar and educator with special expertise in European decorative arts, patterns of collecting and display and the history of architecture, gardens and photography.

This event is co-hosted by the Wellesley College Art Department.

Faculty Gallery Talk: Partners in Design

Thursday, November 3 | 4 p.m. | Davis Galleries

Wellesley College faculty members Patricia Berman, Theodora L. and Stanley H. Feldberg Professor of Art, and Alice Friedman, Grace Slack McNeil Professor of American Art, will discuss modern art, architecture and design on view in the special exhibition, Partners in Design.

Davis Museum
About Davis Museum

One of the oldest and most acclaimed academic fine arts museums in the United States, the Davis Museum is a vital force in the intellectual, pedagogical and social life of Wellesley College. It seeks to create an environment that encourages visual literacy, inspires new ideas, and fosters involvement with the arts both within the College and the larger community. ABOUT WELLESLEY COLLEGE AND THE ARTS The Wellesley College arts curriculum and the highly acclaimed Davis Museum are integral components of the College’s liberal arts education. Departments and programs from across the campus enliven the community with world-class programming– classical and popular music, visual arts, theatre, dance, author readings, symposia, and lectures by some of today’s leading artists and creative thinkers–most of which are free and open to the public. Since 1875, Wellesley College has been the preeminent liberal arts college for women. Known for its intellectual rigor and its remarkable track record for the cultivation of women leaders in every arena, Wellesley—only 12 miles from Boston—is home to some 2300 undergraduates from every state and 75 countries.


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