Culture & Arts

15 Women Artists Who Have Left Their Mark On Modern Design


When it comes to the world of design, history has paid much attention to names like Frank Lloyd Wright, Josef Hoffman, Le Corbusier and Robert Venturi, producing an archive of the design world's biggest hits filled mostly with... men. Ray Eames -- the female counterpart of Charles Eames -- often makes it into the canon, but names like Charlotte Perriand and Margaret MacDonald are sometimes left out of the genre's popular history.

An exhibit currently on view at New York's Museum of Modern Art is attempting to recalibrate this history, painting a different picture of the iconic design figures well worth remembering. From furniture to textiles to graphic design to ceramics to housing projects, the curiously named "Designing Modern Women, 1890-1990," covers a century of female designers whose stories have long gone untold.

wood chair peacock pot vonmark

The objects on view -- plucked from MoMA's own collection -- showcase the work of women like Lilly Reich, Eileen Gray, Eva Zeisel and Denise Scott Brown. While early reviews of the exhibition have taken issue with the show's organization, critics have pointed out that the curated pieces raise questions worth exploring. For artists, what type of role did collaboration play in a women's design career? For the audience, how did modern design affect the image of a stereotypical woman throughout the ages?

"Are women naturally prone to collaborate," asks The New York Times' Ken Johnson, "or have they tended to partner up to get ahead in a male-dominated profession that has a limited view of their creative capabilities?" We're not sure those are the only two explanations for that particular question -- though, we're also not sure Johnson, a critic with a tendency to over-generalize the art world, is best equipped to digest the exhibition. Perhaps women aren't "naturally" prone to collaboration, but have recognized the creative benefits of working alongside other individuals, be them male or female. We'd love to know how many female-only designer duos or groups have been lost to art history's selective retelling.

In the meantime, we've put together a preview of "Designing Modern Women." Behold, 15 of the many women artists who have -- despite the history books -- left their mark on modern design:

1. Luba Lukova

Luba Lukova (American, born Bulgaria). There Is No Death for the Songs. 1987. Silkscreen, 25 ½ x 38” (64.8 x 96.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the designer, 1998.

2. Magda Mautner von Markhof

Magda Mautner von Markhof (Austrian, 1881-1944). Kalenderbilderbuch (Calendar Picture Book). 1905. Woodcut, 4 x 9 1/4 x 1/2″ (10.2 x 23.5 x 1.3 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder

3. Noémi Raymond

Noémi Raymond (American, 1889–1980). Blue Square Pattern Printed Fabric. Before 1941. Cotton, 49 x 45″ (124.5 x 114.3 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the designer

4. Lina Bo Bardi

Lina Bo Bardi (Brazilian, born Italy. 1914–1992). Exposição da Agricultura Paulista (Exhibition on agriculture in the state of São Paulo). 1951. Lithograph, 20 x 13 3/4” (50.8 x 34.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist

5. Eva Zeisel

Eva Zeisel (American, born Hungary. 1906–2011). Folding Chair. 1948-1949. Chrome-plated tubular steel and cotton, 28 1/2 x 26 x 26 1/2″ (72.4 x 66 x 67.3 cm). Mfr.: Hudson Fixtures, USA. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the designer

6. Grete Jalk

wood chair
Grete Jalk (Danish, 1920–2006). Lounge Chair. 1963. Teak plywood, 29 1/2 x 24 3/4 x 27 1/4″ (74.9 x 62.9 x 69.2 cm). Mfr.: Poul Jeppeson, Denmark. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder

7. Helene Haasbauer-Wallrath

Helene Haasbauer-Wallrath (Swiss, 1885–1968). Die Praktische Küche (The practical kitchen). 1930. Lithograph, 35 1/2 x 50″ (90.2 x 127 cm). Printer: W. Wasserman, Basel. Gift of Jim Lapides and the Architecture & Design Purchase Fund

8. Bonnie Maclean

Bonnie Maclean (American, born 1949). The Yardbirds, The Doors. 1967. Offset lithograph, 21 ¼ x 14″ (54 x 35.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase. © Wolfgang’s Vault

9. Eileen Gray

Eileen Gray (British, born Ireland. 1879–1976). Screen. 1922. Lacquered wood and metal rods, 74 1/2 x 53 1/2 x 3/4″ (189.2 x 135.9 x 1.9 cm). Mfr.: Eileen Gray Workshop, Paris. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Hector Guimard Fund

10. Margaret E. Knight

Margaret E. Knight (American, 1838–1914), Charles B. Stilwell (American, n. d.), Union Paper Bag Machine Company (Philadelphia, PA, est. 1869). Flat-bottomed Paper Bag. 1870s–1880s. Paper, 13 3/4 x 7 x 4″ (34.9 x 17.8 x 10.2 cm). Mfr.: Duro Bag Manufacturing Company, Elizabeth, NJ. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the manufacturer

11. Karin Schou Andersen

Karin Schou Andersen (Danish, born 1953). Flatware. 1979. ABS polymer and stainless steel, fork: 7 1/8 x 1 1/2 x 5/8″ (18.1 x 3.8 x 1.6 cm), spoon: 7 1/4 x 1 3/4 x 3/4″ (18.4 x 4.5 x 1.9 cm), knife: 5 1/4 x 4 x 5/8″ (13.3 x 10.2 x 1.6 cm). Mfr.: Amefa Alpeldoornse, Apeldoorne, The Netherlands. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the manufacturer

12. Greta Magnusson Grossman

Greta Magnusson Grossman (American, born Sweden. 1906–1999). Cobra Lighting Fixture. c. 1948. Enameled aluminum, enameled steel, and chrome-plated steel, 27 1/2 x 11 1/4 x 13″ (69.9 x 28.6 x 33 cm). Mfr.: Ralph O. Smith Co., Los Angeles, CA. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the manufacturer

13. Marianne Brandt

Marianne Brandt (German, 1893–1983). Teapot. 1924. Nickel silver and ebony, dimensions variable, height 7″ (17.8 cm). Mfr.: Bauhaus Metal Workshop, Germany. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Phyllis B. Lambert Fund

14. Gae Aulenti

Gae Aulenti (Italian, 1930–2012). Table with Wheels (model 2652). 1980. Glass, metal and rubber, h. 11 1/4 x w. 27 1/2 x l. 54 5/8″ (h. 28.6 x w. 69.9 x l. 138.7 cm). Mfr.: Fontana Arte, Italy. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Donn Golden. © 2013 Sergio Asti

15. Charlotte Perriand

Charlotte Perriand (French, 1903–1999), with Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret; French, born Switzerland. 1887–1965), and ATBAT. Kitchen from the Unité d’Habitation, Marseille, France. c. 1952. Various materials, 88 x 105 1/2 x 72″ (223.5 x 268 x 182.9 cm). Mfr.: Charles Barberis, Menuiseries modernes, Corsica. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Andrea Woodner, 2011. Installation view of Designing Modern Women 1890-1980. © 2013 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photograph: Thomas Griesel.

"Designing Modern Women" will be on view at MoMA until September 21, 2014.

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