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Art Through Time: A Global View

Domestic Life Compare: Where Is the Art in Design?


Artist / Origin: Philip Speakman Webb (British, 1831–1915)(designer)
Region: Europe
Date: ca. 1865
Period: 1800 CE – 1900 CE
Material: Oak
Medium: Other
Dimensions: H: 29 in. (73.7 cm.), W: 23 ½ in. (59.8 cm.), L: 65 in. (165 cm.)
Location: Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK
Credit: Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London/Art Resource, NY

“Wassily” Chair

“Wassily” Chair
Artist / Origin: Marcel Breuer (American, born Hungary, 1902–81). Manufactured by Standard Möbel, Germany
Region: Europe
Date: 1927–28
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Chrome-plated tubular steel, canvas upholstery
Medium: Other
Dimensions: H: 28 ¼ in. (71.8 cm.); W: 30 ¾ in. (78.1 cm.); D: 28 in. (71.1 cm.)
Location: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Credit: Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Herbert Bayer/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY

Where is the art in design?

Industrialization and the coming of the machine age provoked strong reactions in a number of artists and designers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While some were critical of the changes taking place, others embraced them. The Arts and Crafts movement and the Bauhaus exemplify two such responses. In both cases, the issues raised by their adherents led to serious thinking about art and design and, ultimately, had a major impact on domestic architecture and furnishing, as well as interior decoration.

Questions to Consider

  • Each of these pieces is associated with a particular design movement. What are those movements and how do these pieces reflect the philosophies of each? Is there any overlap between them?
  • What is the relationship between form and function in each of these cases? How would you characterize the relationship between form and function in the domestic wares produced and consumed by your own culture today? What does this suggest about contemporary values?
  • Traditionally, museums have classified furniture as decorative arts, rather than fine arts. Do you think this is a valid distinction? Do you think chairs and tables like these have a place in an art museum?

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Art Through Time: A Global View


Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
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  • ISBN: 1-57680-888-2