Decorative Arts at The World's Fairs - Inventing the modern world, 1851-1939.

  • Style

    World’s fairs showcased the latest styles in design, with manufacturers displaying the most up-to-date objects.
    From the 1850s to the 1930s, styles in the decorative arts changed enormously—from designs that recalled the past to those that displayed the influence of Asian art and finally, to works that embraced the new urban landscape of skyscrapers, trains and automobiles.
    Emile Ruhlmann, Bedroom from the Hotel d’un Collectioneur, Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, Paris, 1925. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.
  • Vase Bertin

    The monumental Vase Bertin by Sèvres was inspired by Chinese celadon ceramics. The white decoration, called pâte-sur-pâte, however, was a new process. Layers of liquid clay were applied and carved to create the design of sea creatures and seaweed.
    Shown at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1855
    Jules-Constant Peyre, designer, French, act. ca. 1845–1870. Lèopold Jules Gèly, decorator, French, act. 1851–1888. Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, manufacturer, France (Sèvres), 1756–present. Vase Bertin, ca. 1855. Glazed porcelain. 39 x 18 in. (99 x 45.8 cm). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Darrell, Steven, Brian, and Neil Young in memory of their parents, Mardelle J. and Howard S. Young, 2007.277.
  • The Conglomerate Vase

    A sensation at the 1878 Paris exposition, Tiffany & Co.’s Conglomerate Vase dazzled the public with its display of fashionable Asian-influenced design and superb Japanese metal techniques. While the form is Chinese, the elaborate decoration derives from Japanese models.
    Shown at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1878
    Tiffany & Co., United States (New York, NY), 1837–present. Conglomerate Vase, 1878. Silver with copper, gold, iron and niello. H.: 20 1/4 in. (51.4 cm). Private Collection, New York.
  • Dressing Table and Stool

    Gorham’s dressing table and stool evokes both 18th-century French Rococo designs and the influence of fashionable European Art Nouveau. Combining new and old motifs, the design illustrates the contrast between the past and the future represented at the fairs.
    Shown at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900
    William C. Codman, American (b. England), 1839–1921. Gorham Manufacturing Company, United States (Providence, RI), 1831–present. Dressing Table and Stool, 1899. Silver with mirrored glass, ivory and replacement upholstery. Overall: 60 x 50 x 33 in. (152.4 x 137.1 x 87.8 cm). Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., in honor of Dr. Charles L. Venable, 2000.356.
  • Cabinet

    Louis Majorelle’s furniture combined mid-18th-century French and late-19th-century Art Nouveau design. While the wood-working techniques show the influence of the past, the organic fluidity of the metal mounts displays new tastes.
    Model shown at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900
    Louis Majorelle, French, 1859–1926. Cabinet, ca. 1900. Kingwood, mahogany, amaranth with various woods, gilded bronze, and replacement textile. 71 5/8 x 23 1/4 x 18 1/8 in. (181.9 x 59.1 x 46 cm). Indianapolis Museum of Art, Purchased in memory of Josephine Cowgill Jameson (Mrs. Booth Tarkington Jameson) by the Alliance of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Josephine Cowgill Jameson Fund, 1991.42.
  • Z-Clock

    Gilbert Rohde's Z-Clock exhibits new materials and a dynamic composition in its compact, streamlined form. Replacing the traditional clock case with a strong diagonal bar, Rhode emphasized simplicity and lowered production costs.
    Model shown at A Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, 1933
    Gilbert Rohde, American, 1894–1944. Herman Miller Clock Company, United States (Zeeland, MI), 1927–1937. Z-Clock, 1933. Glass, enamel and chromium-plated steel. 11 3/4 x 12 x 3 in. (29.9 x 30.5 x 7.6 cm). Dallas Museum of Art, anonymous gift, 2006.19.