mid-century

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Image features a design for an undersea lounge seen in elevation. Drawing mounted on presentation board with wide margin at right, superimposed by text label. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
The Swimmin’ Sixties: Donald Deskey Associates’ Undersea Lounge
In the early twentieth century, designers often put their work out to sea. Le Corbusier, Swiss-French pioneer of modern architecture, wrote in his seminal 1931 treatise Towards A New Architecture that “a seriously-minded architect (…) will find in a steamship his freedom from an age-long but contemptible enslavement to the past.”[1] The next year, American...
Image shows a narrow wallpaper border with green ivy and red berries. Please scroll down for further information on this object.
Fast and Easy Decorating
“Fast and easy” is how this collection of borders was marketed to the public. Designed especially for the do-it-yourself market, these narrow borders were packed in individual boxes, sold in twelve foot lengths, and all were pre-pasted. They just had to be dipped in water and stuck on the wall, though consumers were advised to...
New truck shine
Bill Brownlie, a long-time designer and car stylist for Chrysler, drafted this interior concept for a truck cab in 1952. His sectional depiction of the interior is composed to provide viewers with a glimpse through the passenger’s side door.   The highly finished effect of the drawing, the result of using an airbrush and ink, gives...
Deco Dictators
Contemporary critics generally considered Gustav Jensen’s stylish illustrations and overall design for “The Rise of Rome” to be the highlight of the 1932 publication. The book, a simplified history of Rome’s transition from Republic to the Imperial rule of the Caesars, was written for a high-school audience by Gordon Congdon King.  Reviews frequently complimented Jensen’s contributions, noting the pleasing “aesthetic experimentation” in format,...
Parade of Parachutes
LIFE magazine deemed him as a “dressmaker in silver” in 1939, but Tommi Parzinger was an incredibly versatile designer, celebrated for his furniture, wallpaper, packaging and textiles.[1] Parzinger designed furnishings for socialites, decorators, and celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and the Rockefellers and he established himself as a man about town in the glamorous circles of...
Santa’s Favorite Cigar
The characteristic wit and whimsy of graphic designer Paul Rand dominates a long-running series of ads designed for El Producto in the 1950s. Already wildly successful by the 1940s, Rand was hired in 1952 to revamp the American-made cigar company’s advertising efforts after production shifted from hand-rolled to machine-rolled cigars. To enliven these factory-made products,...
Psychedelic Seats
This poster for the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibition The Modern Chair: Its Origins and Evolution was designed by John van Hamersveld in 1977. Van Hamersveld, a California born and bred graphic designer, is most widely known as the artist behind the iconic 1964 Endless Summer movie poster. Incorporating fluorescent paints and striking graphic language, van Hamersveld brought...
Helen, Boris and Cromwell
This funky little chartreuse sample seems perfectly suited for an American mid-century interior. Woven by Helen Kroll Kramer between 1930-1958, it is composed of wool and rayon with contrasting bands of lime and pea green. Kramer is renowned as a successful 20th century artist and purveyor of handwoven textiles for upholstery and drapery. With her...
A Nice Mix of Patterns
We recently photographed a rather large mid-century wallpaper sample book in the museum collection. The book contains numerous examples of complementary papers, or papers that were designed to be used together within a room or in adjoining rooms for continuity. The sample book was organized to reflect this use, as the coordinating papers were bound...