Utopia Matters: From Brotherhoods to Bauhaus

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Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Summer, ca. 1890

Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Summer, ca. 1890. Oil on canvas, 107 x 137.8 cm. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., Gift of William T. Evans

Utopia Matters: From Brotherhoods to Bauhaus

May 1–July 25, 2010

Utopia has long been a subject of investigation for artists, as well as a model for artistic collectives. In the early 1800s, artistic brotherhoods inspired by the medieval guild emerged. These brotherhoods pursued the utopian tenets of communal work from within ideal communities they established. By the end of the nineteenth century, utopian groups flourished, as artists, architects, designers, and writers embraced aestheticized experience and artisanal traditions in reaction to the unsightliness and commercialism of urban life. Following World War I, avant-gardes turned to the utopian notion of harmony they saw in abstraction and optimistically endeavored to ameliorate society through art and design. Utopia Matters: From Brotherhoods to Bauhaus examines a sequence of international case studies from the early nineteenth century through 1933, when the Bauhaus closed in Berlin and the ascendancy of Fascism and Stalinism curbed or negatively reframed artistic endeavors, and investigates the evolution of utopian ideas in modern Western artistic thought and practice. It addresses the movements of Primitivism, the Nazarenes, the Pre-Raphaelites, William Morris and Arts and Crafts, the Cornish Colony, Neo-Impressionism, De Stijl, the Bauhaus, and Russian Constructivism. This exhibition is organized by Vivien Greene, Curator of 19th- and Early 20th-Century Art at the Guggenheim Museum. A fully illustrated catalogue with essays by Greene, noted historian Russell Jacoby, and design historian Victor Margolin will also accompany the exhibition.

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