The 20th century was a time of great social and artistic upheaval. Art, design, theatre and performance were all profoundly affected by the catastrophic impact of the two world wars, the fear and suspicion of the Cold War, and the rapidly changing position of women in society.
20th-Century Design Styles
During the 20th century, art and design was inescapably influenced by politics. Modernism and Art Deco were a reaction to the horrors of the First World War. Later, artists responded to the end of World War II and the fear and suspicion brought on by the Cold War tensions between East and West.
Throughout the 20th century cross-cultural and historical influences had a profound impact upon fashion design. The styles, designs and materials of other times and cultures became more accessible to designers as improved travel and communications enabled continents to be crossed with ease.
Explore the history of modern theatre. Including the 'new drama' of the early 20th century, the patriotic wartime entertainment of the 1940s, the foundation of institutions such as the Arts Council and the National Theatre, and the controversial 'in yer face' movement that sprung up in the 1990s.
Diaghilev & the Ballets Russes
Sergei Diaghilev (1872 - 1929), was a Russian ballet impresario and founder of the revolutionary Ballets Russes dance company. The work of the Ballet Russes influenced 20th-century art, theatre, fashion and interior design. In 2010, the V&A hosted the major exhibition ‘Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russes, 1909 - 1929’.
From the early 20th century dancers, especially in Germany and America, experimented with freer, more personal ways of moving. They rejected the rigidity of classical ballet. This style of movement is often referred to as ‘modern dance’, a term which encompasses a wide range of styles and techniques.
Penguin Donkey Bookcase by Egon Riss and Isokon, 1939
This bookcase was was made by Isokon, probably the most forward-thinking British furniture manufacturer of the 1930s. In the late 30s this little bookcase was set to be a best seller, but its success was thwarted by the onset of war. Now it is a rare design.
Kitchen Clock, by Max Bill, 1956
This kitchen clock, which incorporates a mechanical timer, was designed by Max Bill whilst director of the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG Ulm), the experimental design school founded in 1953. It is one of the earliest and most notable designs by Bill to be put into production.