Darwin + Design Exhibition and Symposium

Design in the Age of Darwin: From William Morris to Frank Lloyd Wright

May 9–August 24, 2008
Frances and Leigh Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
phone: 847-491-4000

This from the Block Museum Website:
With the publication of
The Origin of Species in 1859, Charles Darwin challenged the foundations of both science and culture. His ideas about the transmutation of species and the mutability of nature provoked strong reactions among naturalists and theologians and continue to stir debate today. It is less well known that the influence of Darwinian and other modes of evolutionary thought extended into the realms of architecture, the decorative arts, and design, as well, where biological terms like “adaptation,” “fitness,” “functionalism,” and “type” were used by theorists and practitioners alike. During the fifty or so years following the publication of The Origin of Species, biologists and designers wrestled with the question of whether the evolution of plants and animals, and the decorative forms derived from them, was the result of an internal dynamic presided over by a divine creator or external factors governed by mere contingency. The dispute, which may be called the "formalism/functionalism debate," was engaged by the English designers William Morris, Christopher Dresser, C. F. A. Voysey, and C. R. Ashbee, as well as the American architects Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, whose works are included in the exhibition.


This exhibition is guest curated by Northwestern University art history professor Stephen F. Eisenman. A full color illustrated catalogue ($36.95) published by the Block Museum and Northwestern University Press accompanies the exhibition.

In Conjunction with this exhibition:
“Darwin and Design” Symposium
9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Saturday, May 17
Frances and Leigh Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, IL

An international panel of scholars will gather to discuss the impact of the theory of evolution on British and American architecture, design and decorative arts. Caroline Arscott, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London; David Brett, University of Ulster, Belfast; Stuart Durant, independent author and scholar; Jonathan Smith, University of Michigan-Dearborn; and Northwestern’s Sarah Teasley, assistant professor of art history, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will participate. Admission is free.

Schedule, Panelists, and more information can be found HERE (scroll to event).

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