V&A: INSPIRATION BY DESIGN

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By Susan Davies

 

When an exhibition promises a range of artists and writers from Beatrix Potter to Andy Warhol, and also covers Dante Aligheri and Edward Lear, you can expect a truly unique experience. V& A: Inspiration by Design – Word and Image, hosted by The State Library of Victoria, is a touring exhibition from the Victoria and Albert Arts Library in London.

 

There are five parts to the exhibition. The first section is about the V & A’s role in training designers. The Arts Library of the Victoria and Albert Museum was created after the Great Exhibition of 1851 as part of an educational project to reform arts and manufactures in Britain. The State Library of Victoria, founded in 1854, was based on the same model. The collection is about the decorative arts of the past, natural history, the human form, dress and the processes and techniques of art and design.

 

Mass produced goods of the earlier industrial age were of a lower quality, so designers of the mid to late 19th century returned to Renaissance principles of harmonious design in response. They emphasised the relationship between utility and beauty. Owen Jones in Grammar of Ornament; Waring in Masterpieces of Industrial Art; and Digby Wyat in Industrial Arts of the XIX Century; provided guidance and examples of the best types of designs.

 

The second section is about Making Images: The Book Beautiful. From the mid-nineteenth century, illustration was a major factor in the publishing success of literary and recreational texts. This section emphasises the library’s collections of image-led publications for children and adults. The exhibition features original art from George Cruikshank, Walter Crane, Beatrix Potter, and Kate Greenaway.

 

V& A: Inspiration by Design – Word and Image, hosted by The State Library of Victoria, is a touring exhibition from the Victoria and Albert Arts Library in London.”

 

Photography is the focus of the third section. Since the 19th century photography has had an immense impact on our cultural life and visual experience. The V & A has been the major collector of photography in London. They have collected it as documentation and a new form of art. Their collection contains the work of Roger Fenton and Julia Margaret Cameron, Bill Brandt, Martin Parr and Shomei Tomatsu.

 

The fourth section is about Commercial Art / Fashion Graphic Design. After the crash of 1929-30, commercial graphics were considered a major tool in efforts to stimulate consumption and revive the world economy. In 1936 the Library devised a project to extend its examples of commercial graphics. They solicited samples of work from significant designers throughout Europe to create an open reference collection on the trend of typographical design in Britain and abroad.

 

The Artist and the Book is the focus of section five. This section celebrates an era when the book became an expressive art form; it explores the ways in which artists have engaged with books and used the concept of the book to make their own statements. Artists featured include: Pierre Reverdy, Dante Aligheri, Max Ernst, Paul Eluard, Eduardo Palozzi, Walasse Ting, Andy Warhol and Tom Phillips.

 

 

The Exhibition runs from 20 March –14 June 2015.

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