Friday, October 14, 2011

Floating Fifties Furniture

Last week I paid a brief visit to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (Canada), mostly because I'd never gotten around to visiting the place on previous visits and thought it was high time I did so.

The museum is modest in scale because the Victoria metro area is not large. The main exhibit when I was there had to do with the art of Victoria native Emily Carr, but it too was of modest scope.

An exhibit that aroused enough interest to justify a blog post had to do with Canadian furniture and industrial design from the late 1940s into the 1960s. I'll skip over the hi-fi sets and tabletop radios to focus on the furniture style which I'd half forgotten. Although the objects were Canadian, the core style is close to what was being done in the United States and elsewhere at the time.

The photos above are of objects in rough chronological order (if my all-too-quick glance at the information plaques sank in correctly). The top photo deals with the late 1940s and early 50s, the middle with the mid-to-late fifties and the bottom one with the late 50s and early 1960s.

Judging by appearance alone and not any designers' statements of intent, the goal was an appearance of lightness. This was in contrast to "heavy," "substantial" styles of traditional furniture. Horizontal elements tend to be thin. legs and supports are often in the form of thin metal dowels painted black so as not to intrude on the "floating" effect created by the bright or light colored horizontal bits.

A popular contemporaneous style was Danish or Scandinavian modern. Such furniture usually featured wood and fabric (which material and to what degree depending on function). It too tended to be uncluttered, but usually seemed more substantial than the rather extreme look pictured above.

From an interior and furniture design standpoint, the 1950s seem to represent an extreme of the modernist movement in keeping with Abstract Expressionism in painting which peaked at the same time.


Hels said...

Thank you for that post!! I was born after the war; it was an exciting time for ex-servicemen and their young families because they were helped to buy their blocks of land and their houses in newly opened up suburbs in Melbourne (and other cities).

But while the furniture from 1946-59 appealed to my parents' generation, it appealed less to mine. As soon as I made my own decisions in the late 1960s, I decided NEVER to have the colours, shapes and materials that had filled my young years.

Fortunately the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has kept enough of these pieces so that later generations can study mainstream 1950s taste. What comes around, goes around.

Suchitra said...
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