Thursday, September 30, 2010

Modernism and Ornament

Quilt, about 1900

Our ideas about modernism focus on simple geometric shapes.

Quilt, about 1950

 During the early 20th century, German artists organized the Bauhaus, an art school based on strict principles of design, a reaction to the Craftsman movement and Art Nouveau with their reverence for the natural line and the handmade object.  Bauhaus principles emphasized that form must follow function. Design in the modern world should be created for mass manufacture.



Bauhaus aesthetics took direction from ideas such as Adolf Loos' 1908 manifesto Ornament and Crime, which foreshadowed architecture inspired by the unadorned box.


The Bauhaus in Germany

Like another trend setter Elsie DeWoolf, Adolf Loos may have had a bad childhood experience with the wallpaper.



Bauhaus ballet, costumes by Oscar Schlemmer, 1926
Too bad this fashion didn't catch on. Simple shapes CAN be figure flattering.


Model wearing a mask by Schlemmer in a Bauhaus chair by Marcel Breuer
The human face reduced to acceptable ornament.


Textile Design by Sonia DeLaunay, 1930

Acceptable ornament included the basic shapes of circle, square and triangle in primary colors.

 

'Patchwork' by Sonia Delauney
Folk art such as quilts influenced the modern designers


Patchwork dress by Sonia Delaunay, 1913


 Good Design Exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 1952
European modernism became the accepted standard for architecture and interiors.

My generation of Baby Boomers rejected the visual rules of International Style, one reason we were so drawn to crazy quilts and Art Nouveau. But taste changes; style swings between the curved line and the straight line...


between shelves full of doo-dads and the unadorned wall.


I'm still a big fan of ornament, however. A few salt-and-peppers never hurt any decor.


But I digress. The point here is quilts and modernism. It's always entertaining to draw parallels between the two. Below three quilts from about 1900.




Read more about the Bauhaus and those enemies of ornament.
http://www.arcspace.com/books/bauhaus/bauhaus.html

9 comments:

Brenda said...

thanks for this explanation. I vacillate between the two myself, but I lean a bit toward the organic line.

The Scrappy Bee said...

A great post. Design goes round and round. What one generation loves is turned on its head by the next, who in turn will have their cherished designs discarded by the next generation. I think everyone who rails against the "fresh, modern quilt" movement should read this. History is always a great teacher and keeps changes in perspective. Bonnie

Just Jenn said...

So interesting! I was just looking through the book, "Quilts of the Oregon Trail" by Cross and was actually noting which quilts (made over 100 years ago) look very modern by today's standards. What's old is new again... over and over.

Anonymous said...

tHANKS bARBARA - THIS IS A WONDERFUL LOOK INTO THE AGE GOEN BY - YET SEEMS AT TIMES SO MODERN.
IMHO, THE PHOTOS SHOW A VERY STARK WORLD AKA COLD, UNEMOTIONAL AND FOR A HOME 'UNLIVABLE'. NOT THAT I LIKE CLUTTER, BUT DOES ANYONE SEE HUMAN WARMTH EXPRESSED IN THE PHOTOS? JUST WONDERING ..

juLIE IN tn

Nifty Quilts said...

Great post! Lots of good information to ponder. Sonia Delauney was something! I'll have to look up more about her.

Deb Rowden said...

great photoshopping work on this one! highly entertaining!

Suzanne said...

Very witty, very funny. I'll be returning to this post. I wonder if I'm a wallpaper victim myself, but it would be because my mother let 10-year-old me choose brown wallpaper with large (large!) vining flowers featuring pink and white for my own room. Lived with it for seven years. Thanks for the choice words!

Karen Alexander said...

Really enjoyed this post. Always good to see quilts in context of the other art and design of their era. I remembered so little about my art history class in college until I started studying quilts. Hmmm

Lisa Christensen said...

Really enjoyed this post. Always good to see quilts in context of the other art and design of their era. I remembered so little about my art history class in college until I started studying quilts. Hmmm