Graphic designer E. McKnight Kauffer (American, 1890–1954) integrated avant-garde style into modern life, designing everything from posters and book covers to carpets, film titles, theatrical productions, and more. Go beneath the surface of the work with curators Caitlin Condell and Emily M. Orr to discover aspects of Kauffer’s life, design process, and creative struggles.
The largest-ever exhibition of Kauffer is currently on view at Cooper Hewitt through April 10, 2022. The accompanying publication, E. McKnight Kauffer: The Artist in Advertising, is available at SHOP Cooper Hewitt.
Underground Modernist: E. McKnight Kauffer is made possible with support from the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery Endowment Fund and the Esme Usdan Exhibition Endowment Fund.
E. McKnight Kauffer: The Artist in Advertising is made possible in part by Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.
Caitlin Condell is the associate curator and head of the Department of Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design at Cooper Hewitt, where she oversees a collection of nearly 147,000 works on paper dating from the 14th century to the present. She has organized and contributed to numerous exhibitions and publications including Underground Modernist: E. McKnight Kauffer (2021-22), The Modernist French Garden: Designs by the Vera Brothers (2021-22), After Icebergs (2019-20), Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial (2019-20), Fragile Beasts (2016-17), and How Posters Work (2015). She worked previously at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in the department of Prints & Illustrated Books.
Emily M. Orr is the assistant curator of modern and contemporary American design at Cooper Hewitt. She holds a Ph.D. in the History of Design from the Royal College of Art/Victoria & Albert Museum. Her exhibitions include Underground Modernist: E. McKnight Kauffer (2021-22), Botanical Expressions (2019-21), and Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s (2017). She was formerly the Marcia Brady Tucker Fellow in the American Decorative Arts Department at the Yale University Art Gallery. She has written articles on a range of design history topics and is the author of Designing the Department Store: Display and Retail at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (Bloomsbury, 2019).
This free program will feature a lecture followed by an audience Q&A hosted through Zoom, with the option to dial in as well. Details will be emailed to you upon registration. This program includes closed captioning. For general questions or if we can provide additional accessibility services or accommodations to support your participation in this program, please email us at CHCuratorial@si.edu.
About the Graphic Design Histories Series
Four lectures explore the history of print and digital culture, presented by Cooper Hewitt’s extraordinary community of curators and scholars. The series is presented by the Parsons School of Design/Cooper Hewitt Master’s Program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies.
Photo credit: Caitlin Condell by David Arnold