The exibition the Röhsska Museum´s Design History shows items from the beginning of the 19th century up to today’s IT society. The exhibition spans five rooms and presents fascinating period interiors full of the best examples of furniture, industrial design, textiles, ceramics, glass, posters and much more from the museum’s collections.
1800–1900, The Yellow Room
The first room in the design exhibition displays objects from the nineteenth century. It has examples of the Gustavian style that was still found at the beginning of the 1800s and which was later followed by the Empire style, called Karl Johan style in Sweden. Modern design history begins in the mid-1800s, with the dawn of industrialism. The first World’s Fair was held in London in 1851 (the Great Exhibition), which attracted great attention and came to create a lively debate about contemporary design. Apart from the growth of the industrial society, the 1800s were mainly be characterised by historicising styles. The common denominators of these neo-styles were opulent surroundings with
rich textile elements. The exhibition has examples of the various neo-styles and the decorative interior design. At the end of the yellow room there are also examples of the Arts and Crafts movement that developed in Great Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century, as a reaction against that era’s stylistic imitations and mass production; The movement came to have great significance for the development of Jugend style at the turn of that century.
1900–1920, The Purple Room
The second room displays artefacts from 1900–1920 and has numerous examples of Swedish and international arts and crafts, as well as interior design. The use of the neo-styles reached its peak at the start of the 1900s, and the reaction was Art Nouveau, from France, where it found an expression through magnificent floral ornamentation. Art Nouveau had its equivalent in Jugend in England, Scotland and Austria, where they used a modified expression that focused on calmer, more geometric décor. This new style was more restrained in Sweden, because the National Romantic style appeared around the same time. At the end of the nineteenth century, Swedish glassworks, inspired not least by the success of French glass artist Émile Gallé, contacted artists about exclusive glass production. Gunnar G:son Wennerberg, the foremost Swedish glass artist of the Jugend era, worked
at Kosta and produced floral cased glass. Alf Wallander was later active at Kosta and Reijmyre. Other prominent Jugend glass artists were Anna Boberg, A.E. Boman and Karl Lindeberg. At Kosta in 1917, Edvin Ollers brought a new form to the utility glass made at the glassworks. The exhibition also presents examples of Simon Gates’ glass for Sandviken’s glassworks, and Edward Hald’s glass.
1920–1960, The Green Room
The third room displays artefacts from the 1920s to the 1960s. Forty years of design are shown here, beginning in the Swedish classicism of the 1920s, which had a national focus with a neoclassical, simple and expressive idiom in the spirit of the Gustavian style. There are examples from the Stockholm exhibition from 1930 that was functionalism’s breakthrough in Sweden. The attitude was that items that were functional were also beautiful and all decoration for the sake of decoration was banned. “Swedish modern” came to represent quality and simplicity in expression, air and light, harmony and convenience. The 1950s were a golden age for Swedish and Scandinavian design, with elegant, functional every day products, often with a slim, streamlined design. Scandinavian Design was an English term that was coined in the 1950s, when deliberate efforts in Scandinavian design had a great impact. In the 1960s, a new consumption culture, technology, and an increasingly strong youth culture, all contributed to design that was young, colourful and flexible. Influences were more from popular culture than from the older generations’ world of motifs. There are humorous artefacts and a combination of plastic furniture and paper dresses.
1960–1980, The Orange Room
The fourth room presents designs from the 1960s and 1970s. There are many plastic objects on display, from desks to plates and ergonomic aids. But there are also graphic design and political arts and crafts. The latter were of great importance during the 1970s, due to increasing environmental awareness and a political awakening linked to the oil crisis and the Vietnam War. The 1960s saw
an overarching development of the advertising industry, pushed by a number of flamboyant graphic designers. Criticism of industry became radicalised at start of the 1970s. The times were characterised by financial turbulence due to the oil crisis, increased global competition and structural problems within industry. The exhibition room ends with a hint of the 1980s’ colourful and humorous
design with the Italian design group Memphis.
1980–2000, The Blue Room
The final room of design history exhibits design from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s; from wide-shouldered fashion and colourful Swedish glass to stylish Swedish fashion with a high level of craftsmanship. Trends have come and gone at a rapid pace, and the development of the computer has moved at high speed from a bulky machine to a compact telephone. In the 1980s there was a focus on design that emphasised form and expression. The heading of “postmodernism” was used to
question functionalism’s strict approach to form and function. In the same way as postmodernism influenced all design, fashion design became ironic. Historic styles were reused, not in their entirety but selectively and as details, developing into a whole new style. In the 1990s, contemporary design could be used to create an idiom for a modern, urban home. The exhibition includes a table set with the Nobel service, which indicated a more conservative user. In the early 2000s, the strict forms of the late 1990s were replaced by more organic, experimental designs. The urge to experiment was expressed through a questioning of design frameworks and a new interest in the expressive force of artisan crafts.