These galleries provide an overview of the museum’s holdings of American and European artifacts from the late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. Culled from The Wolfsonian collection are approximately three hundred works in a variety of formats, ranging from books, posters, and postcards to decorative arts, architectural models, paintings, and sculptures.
Focal points include design reform movements, urbanism, industrial design, transportation, world’s fairs, advertising, and political propaganda. The United States, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands are most fully represented in the collection. Art and Design in the Modern Age: Selections from The Wolfsonian Collection examines the ways in which art and design have both influenced and adapted to the modern world. During this period the fine arts were characterized by unprecedented experimentation and innovation. At the same time, design became a critical issue for producers and consumers as machine-made objects replaced those crafted by hand. The works on display demonstrate designers’ responses to the profound social and technological changes stimulated by the Industrial Revolution.
They reveal how people living in this tumultuous period viewed the world and their place in it, as industrialization, urbanization, mass production, and new transportation and communication systems revolutionized modern life. By interpreting these artifacts in their historical context, The Wolfsonian aims to elucidate the technological and aesthetic concerns, as well as the social, political, and economic motivations that influenced their production. Inaugurated in November 1995, this ongoing exhibition is periodically updated.