Paul Stirton will speak in the Work-in-Progress Seminar on Monday, November 28 at 12 pm. His talk is entitled “Style and Politics in Central European design after the First World War.”


Paul Stirton is Associate Professor of Modern Design History at Bard Graduate Center and editor of West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, published by Bard Graduate Center and the University of Chicago Press. Educated at the University of Edinburgh and the Courtauld Institute in London, he received his PhD from the University of Glasgow with a thesis on “Critical Debates in Victorian Art and Design, and their Influence in Central Europe.” His research has been supported by the British Council, the Mellon Center for British Art, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and he has held fellowships at the Wolfsonian in Miami, and the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. He is the author of many books, articles, and exhibition catalogs, including Britain and Hungary: Contacts in Design, Architecture and Theory (2000–05), Janos Mattis Teutsch(2004), The Discovery of Spain (2009), and “Is Mr Ruskin Living too Long?” : Selected Writings of E.W. Godwin (2005, with Juliet Kinchin). Most recently, he contributed an essay on Frederick Antal to the Histoires sociales de l’art, published in May 2016 by the INHA in Paris.

This talk, a true “work-in-progress,” is intended as the first salvo in a new research project on revival styles in modern design. Revivalism remains problematic to historians of twentieth-century design and the decorative arts. To followers of the classic Modernist tradition, “all reviving of styles of the past is a sign of weakness” (Pevsner). And yet, despite such condemnation, revivalist styles thrived in Central Europe in the early decades of the century, for a variety of reasons that include nationalism, aesthetics, religion, and politics. In a period of shifting political boundaries, uneven economic growth, thwarted national aspirations, and an uneasy dialectic between national and internationalist impulses in design, it is not surprising that historic sources should be revived and imbued with a complex range of meanings. Focusing initially on the furniture, graphics, and interiors of Lajos Kozma (1884–1948), this talk will indicate some of the reasons why progressive designers in Hungary, Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Poland turned to certain historic and vernacular sources after the First World War, and what these stylistic forms may have meant to their public.