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Simpler Times
The issue of The New Yorker dated August 19, 1944 had a curiously wholesome cover. A farmer, holding a lamb, and his wife, armed with a bucket, were surrounded by farm animals and flowers. They were faceless and a bit flat, but expressive nonetheless, with the appearance of having been cut from bright calico cottons...
Rotherhithe
This print by James Abbott McNeill Whistler is part of a series of images the artist produced depicting the East London neighborhoods of Rotherhithe and Wapping in 1859–60. While English painters had traditionally avoided portraying these industrial districts of the city throughout the nineteenth century, Whistler’s Thames series takes for subject the city’s poorest workers...
Flowers and Cigarette Butts, Forever Beautiful
Damien Hirst’s “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever” wallpaper is an unexpected interpretation of a floral wallpaper containing a dense pattern of brightly colored flowers with a grid of smashed cigarette butts printed on top. The design plays on the contrasting themes of beauty and trash, or life and death, as Hirst equates littered ashtrays with...
A Charming Scene
Ilonka Karasz decorated this Buffalo China plate in about 1935, during the time that she worked as a designer for the company.[1] Founded by The Larkin Company, a soap factory, in 1901, Buffalo China produced soap dishes and other ceramics that were offered as premiums for purchasers of soap. The Larkin Company’s desirable premiums (including...
Lucky Pines
This Japanese fabric was produced for a maru obi, the most formal of obi for women. Maru obi cloth is typically woven in widths of twenty-five to twenty-six inches—about double the width of more casual styles of obi. The cloth is folded around a stiff lining and stitched together along the selvedges. It is bulky,...
Children Go Modern
From the time she arrived in the United States from Budapest in 1913, Ilonka Karasz was a force in New York City’s creative circles. Karasz’s oeuvre is diverse; over the course of her sixty-year career, she created furniture, textiles, silver, wallpapers, ceramics, and illustrations. Between 1925 and 1973, Karasz illustrated 186 covers for the New...
Turbulent Times Call for Cacti
During the time period that this wallpaper was produced, the United States was experiencing some political unrest due to the ramifications of World War II. During the war years all artistic and design related activities slowed down substantially as manufacturers were unable to introduce new patterns as raw materials were reserved for the war effort....
Shaken, Not Stirred
Though not directly connected to the Memphis Group, a collective of young designers based in Milan during the 1980s, this Memphis cocktail glass suggests a similar postmodernist approach to design. Postmodernism rejects the severe aesthetic and sweeping and universal claims of modernism in favor of “complex and often contradictory layers of meaning.”[1] The playful design...
Something Fishy
Painter and commercial illustrator Richard Munsell began creating advertising artwork for Maxwell House in the 1940s. His ads, the best known of which depicts coffee time at a living-room sewing bee, appeared within a series entitled “Part of the American Scene.” He also designed textiles that appealed to the American experience: lazy summer days spent...