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Modernism

Room 74 and throughout the Museum

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Modernism in design and architecture emerged in the aftermath of the First World War and the Russian Revolution – a period when the artistic avant-garde dreamed of a new world free from history and tradition.

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During the years between the World Wars, Modernist design and art shared certain underlying principles: a rejection of decoration and applied ornament; a preference for abstraction; and a belief that design and technology could transform society. This utopian spirit pervades the V&A's collection: from everyday objects to feats of technological inspiration.

Exploring Modernism

Photo of Dell-Lampe Type K, desk lamp, designed by Christian Dell, made by Zimmermann GmbH, 1929, Germany. Museum no. M.27-1992. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Dell-Lampe Type K, desk lamp, designed by Christian Dell, made by Zimmermann GmbH, 1929, Germany. Museum no. M.27-1992. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Neu-Berlin, cup and saucer, designed by Trude Petri, manufactured by Staatliche Porzellanmanufaktur, 1931, Germany. Museum no. C.26:1&2-2009. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Neu-Berlin, cup and saucer, designed by Trude Petri, manufactured by Staatliche Porzellanmanufaktur, 1931, Germany. Museum no. C.26:1&2-2009. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Paimio Armchair, designed by Alvar Aalto, manufactured by Huonekalu-ja Rakennustyötehdas Oy, 1930, Finland. Museum no. W.41-1987. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Paimio Armchair, designed by Alvar Aalto, manufactured by Huonekalu-ja Rakennustyötehdas Oy, 1930, Finland. Museum no. W.41-1987. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Desk, Denham Maclaren, about 1929, England. Museum no. W.20-1979. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Desk, Denham Maclaren, about 1929, England. Museum no. W.20-1979. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Tea pot, Naum Slutzky, 1928, Germany. Museum no. CIRC.1232-1967. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Tea pot, Naum Slutzky, 1928, Germany. Museum no. CIRC.1232-1967. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of MR20, armchair, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, manufactured by Thonet, 1927, Germany. Museum no. T.40:1&2-2005. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
MR20, armchair, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, manufactured by Thonet, 1927, Germany. Museum no. T.40:1&2-2005. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Kaufmann Office (detail), panelled room, Frank Lloyd Wright, 1935 – 37, US. Museum no. W.9:1 to 240-1974. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Kaufmann Office (detail), panelled room, Frank Lloyd Wright, 1935 – 37, US. Museum no. W.9:1 to 240-1974. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of The Red Blue Chair, armchair, designed by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, made by Gerard A. van der Groenekan, 1918, Netherlands. Museum no. CIRC.367-1970. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Red Blue Chair, armchair, designed by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, made by Gerard A. van der Groenekan, 1918, Netherlands. Museum no. CIRC.367-1970. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Hanging, designed by Gunta Stölzl, 1926, weaved by Anna Albers, 1967, Germany. Museum no. CIRC.534-1968. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Hanging, designed by Gunta Stölzl, 1926, weaved by Anna Albers, 1967, Germany. Museum no. CIRC.534-1968. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Savoy, vase, designed by Alvar Aalto, manufactured by Karhula, 1937, Finland. Museum no. C.226-1987. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Savoy, vase, designed by Alvar Aalto, manufactured by Karhula, 1937, Finland. Museum no. C.226-1987. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Penguin Donkey, bookcase, designed by Egon Riss, manufactured by Isokon Furniture Company, 1939, England. Museum no. W.19:1 to 3-1993. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Penguin Donkey, bookcase, designed by Egon Riss, manufactured by Isokon Furniture Company, 1939, England. Museum no. W.19:1 to 3-1993. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of MT8, table lamp, Wilhelm Wagenfeld, about 1924, Germany. Museum no. M.28&A-1989. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
MT8, table lamp, Wilhelm Wagenfeld, about 1924, Germany. Museum no. M.28&A-1989. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Frankfurt Kitchen (detail), Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, 1926 – 27, Germany. Museum no. W.15:1 to 89-2005. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Frankfurt Kitchen (detail), Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, 1926 – 27, Germany. Museum no. W.15:1 to 89-2005. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Ensemble reproduction, designed by Aleksandr Mikailovich Rodchenko, 1922, made by Aio Morishita, 2005, France. Museum no. T.40:1&2-2005. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Ensemble reproduction, designed by Aleksandr Mikailovich Rodchenko, 1922, made by Aio Morishita, 2005, France. Museum no. T.40:1&2-2005. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Drawing, Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1934, England. Museum no. E.3770-2004. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Drawing, Edward McKnight Kauffer, 1934, England. Museum no. E.3770-2004. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of EKCO AC 74, radio, designed by Serge Chermayeff, manufactured by E. K. Cole Ltd, 1933, England. Museum no. CIRC.12-1977. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
EKCO AC 74, radio, designed by Serge Chermayeff, manufactured by E. K. Cole Ltd, 1933, England. Museum no. CIRC.12-1977. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Britain by Mass Observation, book, written by Charles Madge & Tom Harrisson, published by Penguin Books, 1939, UK. Museum no. CT137830. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Britain by Mass Observation, book, written by Charles Madge & Tom Harrisson, published by Penguin Books, 1939, UK. Museum no. CT137830. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Bracelet, Naum Slutzky, 1930, Germany. Museum no. CIRC.1236-1967. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Bracelet, Naum Slutzky, 1930, Germany. Museum no. CIRC.1236-1967. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Learn more about Modernism