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The Architectural Image, 1920-1950

Prints, Drawings, and Paintings from a Private Collection

November 8, 2014 - May 3, 2015

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The Architectural Image List of Works 

"A fascinating and potent exhibition of architectural and urban images."—The Washington Post

Assembly LineBetween 1920 and 1950, architecture changed more profoundly and more rapidly than during any similar timespan in history. At the beginning of the period, an ornate form of neoclassicism—as promoted by the centuries-old École des Beaux Arts in Paris—was still prevalent in the U.S. and much of Europe. But that tradition was soon challenged by the newly established Bauhaus school in Germany, which advocated functional design free of unnecessary ornament. By the end of the period, International Style modernism, which was largely based on Bauhaus principles, was by far the predominant force in architectural education and practice.

The changing tastes, theories, and obsessions of that era were often documented by prominent artists who found architecture and construction to be compelling subject matter. Some of these artists saw beauty in the inherent geometries of buildings, which they crisply captured via woodcuts or similar high-contrast media. Some celebrated the workers who built soaring skyscrapers or who toiled in modern factories. Others were simply fascinated by the burgeoning skylines and great works of infrastructure that distinguished the modern metropolis.

This exhibition presents 70 prints, original drawings, and paintings from the period, all drawn from a single private collection in Washington, D.C. Included are works by such noteworthy printmakers as Howard Cook, Louis Lozowick, and Charles Turzak. Collectively, these works not only shed light on the dramatic emergence of modernism, but also reveal a certain optimistic spirit that seemed to persist amid the ongoing political, economic, and social upheaval of the era. By virtue of their bold patterns, intriguing perspectives, and masterful execution, these images invite the viewer into the captivating realm that lies at the intersection of art and architecture.

Image: Home Front (Assembly Line), Jolan Gross-Bettelheim, 1942. Courtesy National Building Museum.