Was Gustav Stickley a Modernist? New Perspectives on Early Masterworks

Join us on November 8 at 4:00 for this outstanding lecture, reception and book signing!

Was Gustav Stickley a Modernist? New Perspectives on Early Masterworks

Presented by Joseph Cunningham, Ph.D.

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Joseph Cunningham, Ph.D. will present a lecture entitled, Was Gustav Stickley a Modernist? Perspectives on Early Masterworks. Stickley is widely heralded to be among the most important proponents of the Arts and Crafts Movement in America, but, as Dr. Cunningham will discuss in his lecture, it is now possible to take a wider perspective on his exceptional contribution to the development of Modernism. Dr. Cunningham will propose that Stickley was much more than a mere advocate of British design reform theory or exponent of good design and honest craftsmanship. Stickley can be considered an important modernizing force in American design, beginning around 1900.

Cunningham states, “The revolution of the Gustav Stickley furniture was formally introduced to the public in 1900 in the form of Catalog No. 1, “New Furniture.” Careful analysis of this first body of Gustav Stickley furniture provides a deeper understanding of the complex fabric of influences that came together to make this wide range of designs; some rather nineteenth century efforts and some breathtakingly modernist ones. These objects of design, and domestic use, went a long way toward establishing Stickley’s earliest modernizing efforts in American design reform.

“The birth of Stickley’s modernist ideology can be traced to the seminal writings by Irene Sargent in the first few issues of ‘The Craftsman’ in late 1901 and early 1902. Here the gifted design theorist Sargent set forth the goals of Gustav Stickley’s United Crafts enterprise and its wider aims for helping readers to lead better, more fulfilling lives. Rather than incanting the well developed theoretical dogma of the Arts and Crafts Movement, Ms. Sargent chose to isolate those tenets that focused on modernizing design reform. In place of the rhetoric of the Arts and Crafts Movement, the author anchors her ideas in aesthetic concerns, in terms of pure design as well as in their wider role in the lives of people living in the first years of the twentieth century.

“Sargent’s writings provide a useful portal into Stickley’s efforts, through United Crafts and ‘The Craftsman,’ to modernize the homes and lives of their clients and readers with simple, useful domestic objects and a similarly simplified lifestyle to match. Championing the very same utility and simplicity that architect and tastemaker Phillip Johnson was to declare essential to modern design some thirty years later, ‘The Craftsman,’ and production of Stickley and United Crafts in the period 1900 to 1904 can now be understood for the ways in which they set the scene for modernism in American design.”

Robert Smith Award by the Decorative Art Society. The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs will open at the Milwaukee Art Museum in June 2009 and travel to the Carnegie Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, Huntington Art Galleries and Metropolitan Museum of Art. A monograph of the same title is being published by Yale University Press. ADA1900 is collaborating with the Dallas Museum of Art on their forthcoming Gustav Stickley exhibition and book, to which Dr. Cunningham will contribute an essay on the Irene Sargent and the ideological foundations of the United Crafts and Craftsman enterprises.

A book signing of The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs will follow the lecture, and light refreshments will be served.

Advanced ticket purchases are strongly encouraged.


$5  Members in advance

$10 Non-Members in advance

$12 Purchased at the door

Call 973.540.0311 for tickets, or click here to register

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