A Modern World: American Design from the Yale University Art Gallery, 1920–1950


John Stuart Gordon

With an introduction by Sandy Isenstadt

Contributions by Keely Orgeman, Emily M. Orr, Pan Wendt, Justin Woo, and Diane C. Wright

Americans living in the first decades of the 20th century felt they inhabited a modern age. A spirit of excitement and experimentation transformed the world around them, in particular the consumer goods that filled their homes and offices. A Modern World draws upon the renowned collection of American decorative arts at the Yale University Art Gallery to explore the appearance and dissemination of modern design in the United States. This catalogue organizes roughly 300 examples of silver, glass, industrial design, furniture, medals, jewelry, and printed textiles into thematic groups that chart the aesthetic and social trends that defined American design from the Jazz Age to the Space Age. The authors consider modernism broadly—from handmade luxury goods to mass-produced housewares—establishing a context for the objects within larger international developments in architecture, avant-garde art, and scientific innovation. Entries are arranged in a series of chronological, thematic groups, offering new and compelling juxtapositions. Each group is introduced by an essay that presents the social, ideological, and aesthetic themes that unify the objects.


This book should find a place in the library of any aficionado of modern design. —Modern magazine

[A]n invaluable resource to the field of American decorative arts … the book is a significant resource for scholars. It’s also a dream to dabble in for anyone interested in the stories objects tell. —Julie V. Iovine, Yale Alumni Magazine

[An] elegant, substantial volume … exceptionally rich in content … imaginatively conceived … a refreshing, authoritative account of American modern design, informed and exemplified by nearly 300 objects drawn from the increasingly impressive collections of the Yale University Art Gallery. —K. L. Ames, Choice

This stunning book could be used as a text for any college course on 20th-century design or as a general reference for a collector. —Lita Solis-Cohen, Maine Antique Digest

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