Nikolaus Pevsner
Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2005 (revised edition); originally published 1936, English
Nonfiction, Architecture; Nonfiction, Product/Industrial Design
ISBN: 9780300105711

From the Publisher. One of the most widely read books on modern design, Nikolaus Pevsner’s landmark work today remains as stimulating as it was when first published in 1936. This expanded edition of Pioneers of Modern Design provides Pevsner’s original text along with significant new and updated information, enhancing Pevsner’s illuminating account of the roots of Modernism. The book now offers many beautiful color illustrations; biographies and bibliographies of all major figures; illustrated short essays on key themes, movements, and individuals; a critique of Pevsner’s analysis from today’s perspective; examples of works after 1914 (where the original study ended); a biography detailing Pevsner’s life and achievements; and much more.

Pevsner saw Modernism as a synthesis of three main sources: William Morris and his followers, the work of nineteenth-century engineers, and Art Nouveau. The author considers the role of these sources in the work of early Modernists and looks at such masters of the movement as C.F.A. Voysey and Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Britain, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in America, and Adolf Loos and Otto Wagner in Vienna. The account concludes with a discussion of the radical break with the past represented by the design work of Walter Gropius and his future Bauhaus colleagues.

On 2 book lists
Stanley Abercrombie

First published in 1936 as Pioneers of the Modern Movement and given its new title in a Museum of Modern Art edition of 1949, this book teaches the importance to modernism of such transitional figures as William Morris, H. H. Richardson, Victor Horta, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Louis Sullivan. As Pevsner states, it shows that “the new style, the genuine and legitimate style of our [20th] century, was achieved by 1914.” The 2005 edition adds color illustrations and brings the story forward to Wright’s Guggenheim Museum and Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp chapel.

R. Craig Miller

This iconic book chronicles the formative development of modern design from the mid-19th century into the early 20th century. While it is now easy to criticize or dismiss Pevsner as a historian, he was one of the “gods” who helped create and define modern design. One of his most important achievements was that he was not only able to discern what was important in contemporary design, but he also had the exceptional and rare ability to simultaneously put it into a larger historical context, a feat to which many aspire but at which few succeed.

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