The inter-war period was a time of extraordinary change in Europe and a moment of radical inventiveness in the history of art and culture. The advance of the machine age brought with it mass production and a new sense of internationalism. This ‘heroic’ period of modernity found a particularly forceful expression in graphic design and photomontage, with new techniques enabling a fusion of typography, painting and photography for artistic, commercial and political ends.
The exhibition drew from one of the world’s greatest collections of twentieth century graphics – that of Merrill C. Berman - and gave a fascinating insight into the development of modern visual communication and design, chronicling its evolution in works by artists related to the Dutch De Stijl group, the German Bauhaus, and the Constructivists of Russia and Central Europe. The Italian Futurists had been pioneers in this field, with revolutionary works such as F.T. Marinetti’s Zang Tumb Tumb (1914) exploiting the visual dimension of the written word to dramatic effect.
Artists included Jean Arp, Herbert Bayer, Willi Baumeister, Theo Van Doesburg, John Heartfield, Hannah Höch, El Lissitzky, László Moholy-Nagy, Alexander Rodchenko, Oskar Schlemmer, Kurt Schwitters and Piet Zwart.
The exhibition was organised with the Hayward Gallery for the Arts Council of England. A fully illustrated catalogue also accompanied the exhibition, containing essays by the curator Lutz Becker and the design historian Richard Hollis.