Time Travel—Decorative Art from Kirkland Museum

Modern Scandinavian furniture.  Collection of Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art.
Modern Scandinavian furniture. Collection of Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art.
  • American Art Deco furniture.  Collection of Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art.

    American Art Deco furniture. Collection of Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art.

Be sure to visit Colorado's Arvada Center this summer to see international decorative art from the Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, Wiener Werkstätte, Bauhaus, Art Deco, and Modern styles. Much like our previous "100+ Years of Colorado Art" partnership, the Arvada Center and Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art will present objects from Kirkland Museum's extensive collection. This will be the largest decorative art exhibition from the Kirkland Museum collection that has ever been shown outside the museum.

"From Kirkland Museum's international decorative art collection of over 15,000 objects, we have chosen works the major design movements of the 20th century, allowing you to travel back in time at the Arvada Center. Furniture and other decorative art, along with paintings, are displayed salon style-making it look as if you just walked into someone's home. For this show, we have created vignettes and accessorized them by adding radios, phones, lamps and other vintage household objects," says Hugh Grant, Founding Director and Curator, Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art.

This exhibition is arranged by design movement or style. The salon style of combining paintings and decorative art is unusual for museums but creates a charming atmosphere. It also enables us to share some of the significant painting history of Colorado. For much of art history, the decorative arts—including furniture, ceramics, glassware, tableware, appliances, textiles and other objects—were considered less important than the fine arts of painting, sculpture and architecture. Over the 20th century, decorative art began to be appreciated as an art form. This exhibition therefore combines fine and decorative art, and is one of the reasons Kirkland Museum is similarly displayed. Each movement of the 20th century is certainly a confirmation of human ingenuity, imagination and a triumph of the positive aspects of the human spirit.

Arts & Crafts, International 1860—c. 1918; American 1876—c. 1925
Arts & Crafts can be seen as the first modernistic design style to break with Victorian and other fashionable styles of the time, beginning in the 1860s in England. Designs are characterized by their simplicity and functionality, generally without unnecessary curves and ornament. Americans got their first exposure to Arts & Crafts at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. In the 1880s, Charles, Albert and Gustav Stickley established Stickley Brothers in Binghamton, NY. Gustav subsequently published his influential magazine, The Craftsman (1901-1916). Arts & Crafts in America then became known as Craftsman Style or also Mission Style from the California missions that exemplified simplicity of construction. Other names of note are: William Morris, Charles Ashbee, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Roycroft community, Charles Limbert, Frank Lloyd Wright, Van Briggle Pottery, Grueby Pottery, Teco (The Gates Potteries), Rookwood Pottery, George Ohr, Adelaide Alsop Robineau.

Art Nouveau, International c. 1890—c. 1914; American 1890—c. 1918
This movement/style originated in France. Siegfried Bing gave the style its name when he opened a shop and gallery in Paris in 1895 called L’Art Nouveau. He soon expanded his gallery with workshops and was responsible for significantly exposing the “new art.” Art Nouveau is distinguished by its graceful, curving designs mostly emulating botanic forms, but sometimes bird, animal and human female forms. Examples are whiplash handles, playful serpentine grills, arching buttresses, delicately entwined motifs such as table supports or gentle depictions of falling curls of hair in sculptures and jewelry. Other names of note: Louis Majorelle, Hector Guimard, Émile Gallé, René Lalique, Henry Van de Velde, Victor Horta, Carlo Bugatti, Richard Riemerschmid, C. F. A. Voysey, Liberty & Co. designers including Archibald Knox, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Louis Sullivan, Artus and Anne Van Briggle, Frederick Hurten Rhead and some ceramics by Newcomb Pottery, Teco, Tiffany and Weller Pottery (Sicardoware).

Wiener Werkstätte (Viennese Workshops), c.1903—c.1932
Another style or movement developed at the same time as Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau, but had its own distinct character. The Wiener Werkstätte was founded by architect Josef Hoffmann and painter and designer Koloman Moser with the aim of promoting Austrian and particularly Viennese artworks. Visually, the style is often characterized by restrained geometric curves, square corners and duplicated linear patterns. Ornamentation tends to be repetitive, such as the curling lines or squares in a Klimt painting. Decoration is generally restrained and sometimes there is none. In addition to architectural projects, the designers created metalware, glassware, tableware, furniture, flatware, ceramics, textiles, fashion design, theater costumes, jewelry and graphics (lettering, posters, wallpapers, bookbinding, box designs and coverings and postcards). The Wiener Werkstätte was disbanded because of financial instability, due to the severe economic conditions in the world following the stock market crash of October, 1929 in America. Other names of note are: Josef Hoffmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Otto Prutscher, Jutta Sika, Koloman Moser, Karl Haganauer, Otto Wagner, Dagobert Peche, Michael Powolny, Thérèse Trethan, Karl Klaus, Josef Urban and painter Gustav Klimt.

Bauhaus, c.1919—c.1933
The Bauhaus was a renowned art school, whose immense influence continues today. Founded April 1919 by German architect Walter Gropius in Weimar, Germany, when times were very difficult directly after World War I; it prospered until the Nazis closed it in April 1933. One of the most important philosophies of the Bauhaus was that of unity of the arts through craftsmanship. Geometric forms were the basis of most objects, sculptures, paintings and buildings. Primary colors, grey, black and natural metal patinas were widely used. Function was more important than decoration, leading to clean lines and simplicity of shapes. Other names of note are: Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Josef Albers, Lionel Feininger, László Maholy-Nagy, Herbert Bayer, Marcel Breuer, Mart Stam, Lilly Reich, Marianne Brandt, Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Werner Drewes and Margarete Heymann-Loebenstein Marks.

International Style, c. 1920—c. 1940
Although “International Style” applies to architecture, some of its proponents designed decorative arts and these objects could be considered to also represent International Style, such as those of Eileen Gray. The hallmarks of International Style are simplistic, modernistic designs, generally with buildings of reinforced-concrete, glass and steel. The term gained wide use when Alfred Barr, Director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, gave the exhibition 1932 Modern Architecture—International Exhibition and a companion book entitled International Style: Architecture Since 1922. Other names of note: Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, I. M. Pei, J. J. P. Oud, Richard Neutra, Alvar Aalto, Josef Albers, Marcel Breuer, Lilly Reich and Arne Jacobsen.

Art Deco, c. 1920—c. 1940
The hallmarks of Art Deco are sleek, jazzy, streamlined designs that often connote speed. Typical elements are sweeping, tapering curves, contoured shapes and reinforcing outlines that suggest forward motion. Repetitive geometric patterns; stepped forms; angular, zigzag motifs; stylized nude or clothed figures—generally female—in elegant poses or graceful, dance-like positions; sleek depictions of animals such as hounds, deer, jungle or domestic cats, gazelles; frequently bright colors and usually with black or silver or gold; use of chrome or aluminum; beautiful exotic woods; all are indicative of Art Deco designs. The term derives from l’Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, a celebrated world’s fair, held in Paris in 1925. The Deco movement flourished in the 1920s and 1930s as designers moved away from the organic forms of Art Nouveau. Some names of note are: Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Süe et Mare, Jean Dunand, Pierre Chareau, Franz Hagenaur, Clarice Cliff, Susie Cooper, Keith Murray, Paul Frankl, Donald Deskey, Walter Dorwin Teague, Henry Dreyfuss, Gilbert Rohde, Wolfgang Hoffmann and Warren McArthur.

Modern, c. 1931—c. 1970
Shown in three areas:
Modern American, Modern Italian and Modern Scandinavian
The key to recognizing Modern design is its rounded, organic, biomorphic, natural shapes. Modern came in gradually, as Art Deco was running its course. Landmarks of Modern design are the Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen (1957-8), the Marshmallow Sofa by Irving Harper of George
Nelson Associates (1956), American Modern tableware” by Russel Wright (1937-8), the Studebaker car by Raymond Loewy (1950), the TWA terminal at JFK airport by Eero Saarinen (1956-1962), the Potato Chip Chair by Charles and Ray Eames (1945), the Panton plastic stacking chair by Verner Panton (1960), Compact (later Hellerware) plastic, stacking tableware by Massimo Vignelli (1964) and later additional designs by Massimo and his wife Lella. Other Modern designers of note are: Harry Bertoia, Norman Cherner, Charles and Ray Eames, Paul Evans, Paul Frankl (first did Art Deco then Modern design), Florence Knoll, Paul McCobb, Isamu Noguchi, Eero Saarinen, Frank Lloyd Wright, Russel Wright, Eero Aarnio, Finn Juhl, Bruno Mathsson, Verner Panton, Hans Wegner, Tapio Wirkkala, Gaetana Aulenti, Joe Colombo, Vico Magistretti, Gio Ponti, Robin Day, Gerald Summers, Jacques Guillon , Olivier Mourgue , Pierre Paulin and Charlotte Perriand.

Post-Modern and Contemporary, c. 1970—present
Post-Modern is noted for its unusual use of materials such as the cardboard “Easy Edges” chairs (1969-73) by American architect Frank Gehry, or the combination of plastic and metal for several of Michael Graves’ designs of teapots and other items for Target stores. An important contemporary style developed with the Memphis-Milano Movement active from 1981 to 1987. It was an Italian design and architecture group based in Milan, Italy, whose products included furniture, ceramics, glassware, metalware and textiles. With “Contemporary” design happening now, no one knows what is next except perhaps the current designers.

Christopher Herron, Registrar & Collections Manager at Kirkland Museum, is co-curator of Time Travel-Decorative Art from Kirkland Museum.

Time Travel—Decorative Art from Kirkland Museum
An exhibition of 100+ Years of International Decorative Art
co-curated by Hugh Grant and Christopher Herron of Kirkland Museum
WHERE: Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities, Main Gallery
6901 Wadsworth Blvd. Arvada, Colorado 80003
WHEN: June 9 - August 28, 2011
HOURS: Monday–Friday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Closed July 4),
Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

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