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Mid-Century Modern

This significant design movement, popular between 1933 and 1965, is used to describe developments in modern design, architecture and urban development. In architecture, this design movement was the American reflection of the European International and Bauhaus design movements, which utilized clean simplicity and integration with nature. Structures included ample windows and open floor plans, with the intention of opening up interior spaces and bringing the outdoors in. Advancements in architectural design eliminated bulky support walls, which allowed for walls seemingly made of glass.


The Bauhaus was an art school in Germany founded by Walter Gropius with the purpose of bringing together art, design and architecture as a single practice. The school promoted the concept of “gesamtkunstwerk” or “total work of art,” which was an integrated approach to design, blurring the lines between art, architecture and craft. Creativity and manufacturing were drifting apart, and the Bauhaus aimed to unite them once again, rejuvenating design for everyday life.

Fine art and craft were brought together with the goal of problem solving for a modern industrial society. In so doing, the Bauhaus effectively leveled the old hierarchy of the arts, placing crafts on par with fine arts such as sculpture and painting, and paving the way for many of the ideas that have inspired artists in the late 20th century.


This community in central France is well known for its tapestry and carpets, which have been famous throughout the world for centuries. Its origins were born with the arrival of weavers from Flanders, who took refuge in Aubusson around 1580. A downturn in fortunes came after the French revolution and the arrival of wallpaper. However, tapestry made something of a comeback during the 1930s, with artists such as Cocteau, Dufy, Dali, Braque, Calder and Picasso being invited to Aubusson to express themselves through the medium of wool.

Dexter M. Ferry, Jr.

Son of Dexter M. Ferry, founder of D.M. Ferry & Co., which was at one time the largest seed company in the world. Dexter Ferry was one of the founders of the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA). Like his father, Dexter Ferry, Jr. was a supporter of the DIA. Ferry, Jr., along with Murray W. Sales, was a lead donor for the Central Library, and also led the Central Library building committee.

W. Hawkins Ferry

Son of Dexter M. Ferry, Jr., and like his father and grandfather, a patron of the arts. W. Hawkins Ferry was an architectural historian and a well-known collector of 20th-century art. In addition to being an important donor to the DIA, he is responsible for convincing the library board to select Marcel Breuer as the architect for the Central Library, and also commissioned and donated the four major pieces of art housed at the library.

Marcel Breuer

Born in Hungary, Breuer was a key leader in the Bauhaus movement. Recognized as a significant talent by founder Walter Gropius, Breuer was quickly put at the head of the Carpentry Shop. Eventually becoming a noted architect, Breuer began as an innovative furniture designer. His “Wassily” chair, named after his friend and fellow Bauhaus artist Wassily Kandinsky, is his most famous and recognizable furniture piece. You can learn more about Marcel Breuer at

Alexander Calder

Born in Pennsylvania into a family of artists and educated as a mechanical engineer, Alexander Calder is known as the originator of the mobile, a type of kinetic sculpture made with delicately balanced or suspended component which move in response to motor power or air currents. You can learn more about Alexander Calder at

Wassily Kandinsky

Born in Russia, influential painter and art theorist , Wassily Kandinsky began his career as a successful law professor. At the age of 30, he left Moscow to study art in Munich. He eventually accepted an invitation from Walter Gropius to teach at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture, where he worked alongside Marcel Breuer. You can learn more about Wassily Kandinsky at

Herbert Matter

Swiss-born photographer and graphic designer, and close friend of Alexander Calder, Herbert Mater was know for his pioneering use of photomontage in commercial art. His early work included designing travel posters in Switzerland, which won him instant acclaim. In 1944, Matter directed a movie on the sculpture of his friend and neighbor, Alexander Calder. His completed film was recognized as one of the finest in its genre. You can learn more about Herbert Matter at

Lymann Kipp

American sculptor and painter, Lymann Kipp studied at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where W. Hawkins Ferry had attended high school. He created large pieces composed large pieces composed of strong vertical and horizontal objects, often painted in bold primary colors. He is an important figure in the development of the Primary Structure style in which artists served as “designers” but not necessarily the “maker” of artistic works. You can learn more about Lymann Kipp at

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