"An exhibition of graphic art from the United States has become a tremendously popular attraction [as it toured throughout four cities within the Soviet Union]... In the first two days more than 17,000 Soviet citizens, most of them in their teens or early twenties, came to see a gay collection of funny American posters, preposterous ads, colorful book covers and abstract prints."
"'You mean you're really allowed to paint like this, and nobody says anything?' one of the visitors asked."
Watch Jack Masey of USIA Recall the Cultural Exchange Exhibits of the 50s & 60s
To mark the opening of the Museum of Modern Art's 1938 exhibition, "Bauhaus 1919 - 1928", the over-paid editors at ART DIGEST published this single page review for it's American readers explaining what the art school was, why it closed and what was in the mind of the school's founder, Walter Gropius (1883 – 1969):
"The Bauhaus program proceeded to teach students manual dexterity, in all the crafts, to investigate the laws of the physical world, to plumb the spiritual world, and to master the machine. Out of the Bauhaus came the first experiments in tubular furniture, in modern typography, in modern lighting, and many significant developments in architecture, photography, abstract art, textile and other crafts."
Click here to read unfavorable criticism about the Bauhaus exhibit.
In an attempt to define modernism for a broad audience, architect/designer Alexander Girard curated the Exhibition for Modern Living that was housed at the Detroit Institute of Arts during the winter of 1949. It was a ground breaking exhibit that brought modernism down from the mountain and allowed people to see that modern design was intended to make life more pleasant:
"Modern design implies shape for use, simplicity, new forms to utilize new materials, easier housekeeping, and honest expression of mass production... Up the richly carpeted ramp, viewers walk up to a dining room done by Alvar Aalto; past two studies Bruno Mathsson and Jean Risom and a bedroom and living-room representing a variety of designers; then up another level to a space furnished by Charles Eames; and finally to a small balcony overlooking George Nelson's living area. The quiet simplicity of the rooms and the gentle tones of symphonic music have people talking in whispers. Sighed one woman: 'I'd like to live here.'"
Industrial designer Egmont Arens (1889 - 1966) wrote the attached design review covering the American cars of 1937:
"Perhaps it was just one of life's little ironies that overtook the automobile manufacturers a year ago. In their zeal to provide what they called 'streamlined' design, they took the tear-drop for their model, and the results were tearful indeed - to the sales managers. For they all looked alike..."
"The word 'Streamlining' got everybody a little confused, I am afraid, and off the track. Here was a term out of aerodynamics, invented to describe a solid shape that moves easily through fluid mediums, as the wings and fuselage of an airplane. The human eye responded gratefully to the flow of line prescribed by the laws of physics, and thus streamlining became synonymous with modern beauty. Industrial designers sprang up at every hand, and their main business was 'streamlining'."
Read about the Great Depression and the U.S. auto industry...
"Already the young architects of Italy are looking forward to a new renaissance of building, toward the production of a new style based upon modern methods of building and adapted to modern needs. The impulse to this new movement came from the brilliant Futurist Antonio Sant'Elia, who carried the ideas of the Italian innovators into the field of architecture, but whose development was cut short by his heroic death in the war... Nevertheless, his influence upon the younger architects has been great. Fortunately, they have been able to adapt his ideas to the exigencies of practical building, and in some instances to avoid a complete severing with the traditions of the past."
Norman Bel Geddes (1893 – 1958) was one of the prominent industrial designers to practice a style known as "streamline modern". Always mentioned in the same breath as Henry Dreyfuss and Raymond Lowey, Norman Bel Geddes opened his office in 1927 and helped to give the 1930s a defining look. He was the first of his kind to recognize that American manufacturers were sincerely interested in the marketing of modern design.
The sleek, aerodynamic lines of 1930s streamlining can clearly bee seen in the thirteen images illustrating the attached article about his work, which was written by Douglas Haskell, a well-known design critic active throughout much of the period spanning the mid-Twenties through the mid-Sixties; the column was intended to serve as a review for Geddes' 1932 book, Horizons.