Times & Places

20th-Century Design: The 1920s

The 1920s were generally a time of great prosperity for most of Europe and the United States. Until the stock market crash in 1929 ushered in the Great Depression, many individuals were able to afford growing numbers of consumer products and spend more money on entertainment. For art and design, the 1920s were momentous indeed. In 1929, the Museum of Modern Art in New York was founded as the world's first museum devoted entirely to modern art. The trade fairs held in Paris in 1925 and Barcelona in 1929 focused international attention on the French-inspired art deco style and the new machine aesthetic emanating from Germany's Bauhaus school. Introduced to the world in 1925 at Paris's International Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industries, art deco styling was far more geometric and less reliant on naturalistic ornament in comparison to art nouveau. Furthermore, the items produced in the style during its initial phase in the 1920s tended to be handcrafted luxury goods intended for the upper class. Conversely, the Bauhaus products were designed with the intention that they could be mass-produced by industry. To that end, these German works stress unadorned surfaces and materials like bent steel tubing and glass. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's famous pavilion featuring polished surfaces of marbles, glass, and steel at the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition exemplified the Bauhaus aesthetic.

Excerpt from

Dallas Museum of Art, Hot Cars, High Fashion, Cool Stuff: Designs of the 20th Century (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1996).