Bloomsbury Design Library - Modernism in Scandinavia
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Modernism in Scandinavia

Modernism in Scandinavia
by Charlotte Ashby

Charlotte Ashby lectures in the history of art and design at Birkbeck, University of London, the Courtauld Institute of Art and Oxford University, UK. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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  • Publisher:
    Bloomsbury Publishing Inc
  • Identifier:
    b-9781350097964-001
  • Published Online:
    2018
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Introduction

What is this unit about?

Scandinavian design became famous all over the world in the mid-twentieth century. This unit looks at where this success came from, focusing on the emerging national cultures of the region and the contributions of key individuals from the 1890s to the present day. The emphasis is on the ideas that shaped the form modern design took in the region: ideas of modernity and tradition, of authenticity and national identity, of more beautiful things for everyday life and good design for everyone. We will look at how these ideas were communicated and how they changed over time.

What will students learn from this unit?

Students will be provided with an overview of the changing faces of Modernism in Scandinavia. They will consider the social forces that shaped the aspirations for design in the Nordic countries. They will also look at how design objects are given meaning through the contexts of their display and the role of surrounding texts in telling us how these designs are supposed to be understood.

Unit Outline

Lesson 1: National Styles—A New Style for a New Century

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Gimeno-Martínez, J. 2016. “A National Character.” In Design and National Identity, 33–50. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 19, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474287302.ch-001

Fallan, K. 2016. “Viking Revival.” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, 390. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596154-BED-V020

Robey, E. 2016. “Romantic Nationalism.” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, 169–171. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596154-BED-R052

Discussion questions

  • With reference to Gimeno-Martínez’s text, how can modern design be made to reflect ideas of national character?

  • Look at the following design artifacts. How do these examples embody the idea of modern design’s engagement with the past?

Viking ship figurehead. Excavated in Belgium in 1934 and acquired by the British Museum in 1938.

http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=90334&partId=1&searchText=viking±ship&images=true&page=1

Design for a Viking costume for Ibsen’s The Vikings. Ink and wash drawing by Edward Gordon Craig, 1903.

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O568281/drawing-edward-gordon-craig/

Carved and painted pine armchair by Lars Kinsarvik, decorated in the Dragon style and shown as part of the Norwegian displays at the Paris World’s Fair, 1900.

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O49613/armchair-kinsarvik-lars/

Table from the “Adventure Room” of the Holmenkollen Tourist Hotel, designed by Gerhard Munthe, 1896.

http://samling.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/object/OK-2001-0215#

Homework

Read Hobsbawm, E. J. and T. O. Ranger. 1983. “Introduction.” In The Invention of Tradition, 1–14. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Pick one of the examples discussed in class or find another example and write a short analysis (350 words) on whether you think this object represents “authentic” or “invented” design.

Lesson 2: Stockholm 1930—Selling Modernism to the Swedish Public

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Hagströmer, Denise. 2016. “Stockholmsutställningen (Stockholm Exhibition) (1930).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, 267–268. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Accessed September 19, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596154-BED-S115 .

Margolin, V. 2015. “Scandinavia 1917–1945.” In World History of Design: World War I to World War II, 269–298. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 19, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474246217.ch-007

Explore the archive: http://www.digitaltmuseum.se/

  • Put in the search term “Stockholmsutställningen 1930”

  • Browse through the 949 photographs and 1293 things to virtually explore the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition.

Discussion questions

  • How do exhibitions function as sites for the performance of both tradition and innovation?

  • What are the most prominent features in the appearance of Functionalism as a movement, as it was presented in the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition?

  • Consider the Romantic Nationalism of the 1890s and 1900s, the Nordic Classicism of the 1910s and 1920s, and on to the birth of Functionalism in the 1930s. Make two lists as a class or in groups: What features of Scandinavian design can you see persisting or remaining the same through this period and, on the other side, what are the most striking changes?

Homework

Explore the institutions of Nordic design introduced in the Bloomsbury Design Library: the design schools, societies, museums, and periodicals (see the links below). Write a short essay (350 words) on the roles played by these organizations in supporting Scandinavian design.

Lesson 3: Design Heroes

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Ashby, C. 2016. “Aalto, Alvar (1898–1976).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596178-BED-A004

Dalby, M. S. 2016. “Jacobsen, Arne (1902–71).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, 241–243. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596161-BED-J003

Mussari, M. 2016. “Hegelian Reading: Designing Community in the SAS Royal Hotel.” In Danish Modern: Between Art and Design, 91–108. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474223713.ch-006

Discussion questions

Look at the works of Alvar Aalto and Arne Jacobsen, and discuss the following issues:

  • Modernity versus Tradition

  • National versus International

  • Man versus Machine

Homework

Find an object by either Aalto or Jacobsen and prepare a short talk on how that object relates to the above points discussed in class.

Objects can be found in online collections, for example:

Lesson 4: Design in Scandinavia—World Audiences

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Hagströmer, D. 2016. “Design in Scandinavia (Touring Show) 1954–7.” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 19, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596178-BED-D056

Hagströmer, D. 2016. “Hälsingborg (H55), 1955.” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design, 129. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596161-BED-H024

Mussari, Mark. 2016. “Thematizing Danish Modern: The Arts of Denmark Exhibition.” In Danish Modern: Between Art and Design, 137–150. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Accessed September 19, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474223713.ch-009 .

Discussion questions

  • What sorts of tensions lie between the idea of rational Modernist design and consumer culture?

  • How were images and visual presentation used to present an image of Scandinavia to the English-speaking world?

  • How does the presentation of Scandinavian design in these exhibitions deal with or sidestep the distinctions between art objects and mass-produced design?

Homework

Explore the Design in Scandinavia exhibition:

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/exhibitions/1092

and the catalog:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ad_symphoniam/sets/72157624942545966/

Write a short essay (350 words) on the intended messages you can see in the display and presentation of the exhibition.

Lesson 5: Scandinavian Design Today

Core texts to be read before the lesson

Kristoffersson, Sara. 2014. “Swedish Stories and Design.” In Design by Ikea: A Cultural History, 51–78. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Accessed September 19, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474293945.ch-003 .

Sarantola-Weiss, Minna. 2012. “Creature Comforts: Soft Sofas and the Demise of Modernist Morality in 1970s’ Finland.” In Scandinavian Design: Alternative Histories, edited by Kjetil Fallan, 136–151. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Accessed September 19, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474294027.ch-008 .

Discussion questions

  • Reflect on the defining features of Scandinavian design explored so far.

  • How have these defining features changed over time?

  • What do you see persisting throughout the periods we have looked at?

  • The original motive proposed by design reformers was to bring art into everyday life through good design. Do you see this as having been achieved?

Homework

Explore currently available Scandinavian design online. For example:

Write a short essay (350 words) on how the balance is struck between new design and the continued production/reproduction of design classics from the 1950s and the 1960s. Compare the presentation to the Design in Scandinavia exhibition explored last week.

Further Reading

EBooks in the Bloomsbury Design Library

Ashby, C. 2017. Modernism in Scandinavia: Art, Architecture and Design . Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved June 15, 2018, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474224345 .

Fallan, K., ed. 2012. Scandinavian Design: Alternative Histories . London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474294027 .

Kristoffersson, S. 2014. Design By Ikea: A Cultural History . London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474293945 .

Mussari, M. 2016. Danish Modern: Between Art and Design . London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474223713 .

Articles in the Bloomsbury Design Library

Ashby, C. 2016. “Designmuseo (Design Museum), Helsinki (1873–).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design . London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596178-BED-D062 .

Ashby, C. 2016. “Finnish Society of Craft and Design (Suomen Taideteollisuusyhdistys) (1875–).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design , 22. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596161-BED-F021 .

Christoffersen, N. 2016. “Danish Modern.” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design . London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596178-BED-D006 .

Christoffersen, N. 2016. “Swedish Modern.” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design , 287–288. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596154-BED-S146 .

Dalby, M. S. 2016. “Danish Design.” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design . London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596178-BED-D005 .

Dalby, M. S. 2016. “Danmarks Designskole Det Kongelige Danske Akademis Skoler for Arkitektur Design og Konservering—Designskolen (The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Architecture Design and Conservation—The School of Design) (1875–).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design . London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596178-BED-D007 .

Dalby, M. S. 2016. “Den Permanente (Permanent Exhibition for Danish Crafts and Design), Copenhagen (1931–81).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design . London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596178-BED-D036 .

Fallan, K. 2014. “LEGO, Denmark: (Ole Kirk Christiansen, 1958).” In Iconic Designs: 50 Stories about 50 Things , edited by G. Lees-Maffei, 176–179. London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474293921.ch-037 .

Fallan, K. 2016. “Applied Art Association (Foreningen Brukskunst) Norway (1918–92).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design . London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596178-BED-A057 .

Fallan, K. 2016. “National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo (Kunstindustrimuseet i Oslo) (1876–).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design , 435. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596161-BED-N012 .

Fallan, K. 2016. “Norsk Form (Norwegian Foundation for Design and Architecture) (1992–2014).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design , 466–467. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596161-BED-N056 .

Fallan, K. 2016. “Norske Industridesignere (NID) (Norwegian Industrial Designers) (1955–).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design , 467. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596161-BED-N060 .

Hagströmer, D. 2016. “Form, Kontur, Forum, Arkitektur (Sweden) (1905–).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design , 28–29. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596161-BED-F031 .

Hagströmer, D. 2016. “Lunning Prize (1951–70).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design , 338. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596161-BED-L054 .

Hagströmer, D. 2016. “Nationalmuseum, Stockholm (Museum for Art and Design) (1866–).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design , 435–436. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596161-BED-N013 .

Hagströmer, D. 2016. “Norsk Design- Og Arkitektursenter (DOGA) previously Norsk Designråd (Norwegian Design Council), and Norsk Form (2014–).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design , 466. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596161-BED-N059 .

Hagströmer, D. 2016. “Svenska Slöjdföreningen (Svensk Form) (1845–).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design , 282. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596154-BED-S143 .

Rashidi, I. H. 2016. “Norwegian Design.” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design , 468–473. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596161-BED-N058 .

Sarantola-Weiss, M. 2016. “Finnish Design.” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design , 16–22. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596161-BED-F020 .

Strømgaard Dalby, M. 2016. “Designmuseum Danmark (Design Museum Denmark) (1895–).” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design . London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596178-BED-K048 .

Zetterlund, C. 2016. “Swedish Design.” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Design , 283–287. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved September 28, 2017, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472596154-BED-S145 .

Note: Individual designers and design manufacturers are not listed here. They can easily be searched for using Bloomsbury Design Library’s search function.

Enrichment Materials

Books

Ashby, C. 2017. Modernism in Scandinavia: Art, Architecture and Design . London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Ceferin, P. 2003. Constructing a Legend: The International Exhibitions of Finnish Architecture, 1957–1967 . Helsinki: SKS.

Creagh, L., H. Kåberg, and B. M. Lane (2008). Modern Swedish Design: Three Founding Texts: by Uno Åhrén, Gunnar Asplund, Wolter Gahn, Ellen Key, Sven Markelius, Gregor Paulsson, and Eskil Sundahl . New York: Museum of Modern Art.

Fallan, K. 2016. Designing Modern Norway: A History of Design Discourse . Farnham, England and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Korvenmaa, P. 2009. Finnish Design: A Concise History . Helsinki: TAIK, University of Art and Design.

Mattson, H., and S.-O. Wallenstein 2010. Swedish Modernism: Architecture, Consumption and the Welfare State . London: Black Dog.

Murphy, K. M. 2015. Swedish Design: An Ethnography . Cornell University Press.

Pelkonen, E.-L. 2009. Alvar Aalto: Architecture, Modernity, and Geopolitics . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Articles

Ashby, C. 2010. “Nation Building and Design: Finnish Textiles and the Work of the Friends of Finnish Handicrafts .” Journal of Design History 23, no. 4: 351–365 .

Berner, B. 2002. “‘Housewives’ Films’ and the Modern Housewife. Experts, Users and Household Modernization: Sweden in the 1950s and 1960s .” History and Technology 18, no. 3: 155–179 .

Davies, K. 1997. “Scandinavian Furniture in Britain: Finmar and the UK Market, 1949–1952 .” Journal of Design History 10, no. 1: 39–52 .

Davies, K. 1998. “Finmar and the Furniture of the Future: The Sale of Alvar Aalto’s Plywood Furniture in the UK, 1934–1939 .” Journal of Design History 11, no. 2: 145–156 .

Davies, K. 2002. “‘A Geographical Notion Turned into an Artistic Reality’: Promoting Finland and Selling Finnish Design in Post-War Britain c. 1953–1965 .” Journal of Design History 15, no. 2: 101–116 .

Fallan, K. 2007. “How an Excavator Got Aesthetic Pretensions–Negotiating Design in 1960s’ Norway .” Journal of Design History 20, no. 1: 43–59 .

Fallan, K. 2009. “One Must Offer ‘Something for Everyone’: Designing Crockery for Consumer Consent in 1950s’ Norway .” Journal of Design History 22, no. 2: 133–149 .

Fallan, K. 2015. “Nordic Noir: Deadly Design from the Peacemongering Periphery .” Design and Culture 7, no. 3: 377–402 .

Guldberg, J. 2011. “‘Scandinavian Design’ as Discourse: The Exhibition ‘Design in Scandinavia’, 1954–57 .” Design Issues 27, no. 2: 41–58. doi:10.2307/41261932 .

Hansen, P. H. 2006. “Networks, Narratives, and New Markets: The Rise and Decline of Danish Modern Furniture Design, 1930–1970 .” The Business History Review 80, no. 3: 449–483 .

Helgadottir, G. 2011. “Nation in a Sheep’s Coat: The Icelandic Sweater .” Form Akademisk-Research Journal of Design and Design Education 4: 2 .

Munch, A. V. 2017. “On the Outskirts: The Geography of Design and the Self-Exoticization of Danish Design .” Journal of Design History 30, no. 1: 50–67 .

Øllgaard, G. 1999. “A Super-Elliptical Moment in the Cultural Form of the Table: A Case Study of a Danish Table .” Journal of Design History 12, no. 2: 143–157 .

Pelkonen, E.-L. 2005. “Alvar Aalto and the Geopolitics of Fame .” Perspecta 37: 86–97 .

Selkurt, C. 1987. “New Classicism: Design of the 1920s in Denmark .” The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 4: 16–29 .

Sigurjónsdóttir, A. E. 2011. “The New Nordic Cool: Björk, Icelandic Fashion, and Art Today .” Fashion Theory 15, no. 2: 239–258 .