Collection Spotlight: Mid-Century Modern Living

The era of Mid-Century Modern living (1933-1965) was a time of great change. Bridging the boundaries of the 20th century, it guided the evolution of motor wagons, gramophones, and telegraphs as they turned to cars, walkmen, and text messages. The world was full of new inventions, extraordinary economic growth, and changing mindsets.

As the world evolved, so did the home. Families opened their doors to the sleek furniture design, expansive glass walls, Bauhaus influences, and captivating bold patterns that define the Mid-Century Modern Style. Condensing a world of changes to the scale of a household, the home turned a style into a time capsule of culture.  

The artworks in this collection were studied and selected to elevate a Mid-Century Modern space through their deeply entrenched connections to the influences that founded the style’s era. From the fast paced advertising agencies of Madison Avenue and the vibrant nightlife of cosmopolitan cities, to the revolutionary music and european-influenced furniture, our collection pays tribute to all aspects of Mid-Century Modern Living. Here are a few highlights from the collection: 


Commemorating the modern designs that typify the style, Mitchell Freifeld paints the emblems of revolutionary Mid-Century Modern architecture and furniture. Glass walls, Eames lounge chairs, and low gable roofs are the icons of the Mid-Century Modern style. These interior design changes revolutionized the design world with new, sleek-shaped silhouettes. As the attitudes of the 1950’s shifted to favor functionality over ornamentation, the exteriors and interiors of homes began to shake up the American neighborhood.


Curiosities Diptych (15" x 22.5") by Nancy Goodman Lawrence, mixed media artwork 

Curiosities Diptych (15" x 22.5") by Nancy Goodman Lawrence, mixed media artwork 

The Elizabethans had Romeo and Juliet. The Victorians had Heathcliff and Cathy. As for mid-century moderns, they had “The Dot” and “The Line.” The 1963 Academy Award winning animated short, The Dot and The Line, shows the power and value of graphic design by turning simple shapes into compelling characters. A story of unrequited love, the film stirs audiences to care for a hapless, lovesick line. Recalling the emotional power of graphic designs, Nancy Goodman Lawrence imbues her organic shapes with playful personalities. The interactions between Nancy’s forms show that even the most compelling stories can be told in the simplest of terms.


Through sculptures made from natural materials, Ivan Markovic invokes the rounded shapes and natural materials of mid-century designs. After the first World War, a group of Danish designers changed the way furniture looked forever. Created in natural materials, a “modern” furniture set emphasized simplicity, functionality, and craftsmanship. With careful research into proportions and the human form, this furniture was created to suit a modern lifestyle. 


Capturing the modern beat of the mid 20th century’s swinging rhythms, Gwen Gunter joins in their song. With mingled modern shapes and cross-compositional line work, Gwen Gunter’s abstract compositions jive to their own dynamism. The discs that took their first spins on mid-century record players gave a voice and a rhythm to the rumbling, rebellious modernity. The sounds of rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues, doo-wop, and rockabilly set the tempo to which other art forms flourished.


Studying the structural transparency of Bauhaus modern architecture, Jessica Ecker, paints glass houses in desert settings. The sleekness of her lines and the openness of her glass barriers celebrate this modern architectural style. When Walter Gropius founded The Bauhaus–the famous German art school of design in 1919–he taught his students to eliminate the distinction between a building’s form and function. As years passed, the lessons dispensed from Bauhaus lecterns turned into the buildings that defined modern architecture. Walls became expanses of glass, structural beams became visible focal points, and houses became open spaces.


Submerged  (20" x 20") by Patrick Duffy, oil painting

Submerged (20" x 20") by Patrick Duffy, oil painting

If you were in the advertising business in the 1950’s or 60’s, then Madison Avenue would have likely been where you would hang your stingy-brimmed hat. With new modes for mass media, the so-called “mad men” met the demands of a growing consumer culture – breaking up television programs, filling magazine pages, and adding jingles to radio shows with their sponsored messages. Invoking the “mad men” and New York City rush hour, Patrick Duffy populates his paintings with figures in hats and trench coats. His paintings take on a pattern and directionality that move with an urban flux.


Sharing in the spirit of modernism, Justin Simcik captivates the imagination of his audience through pattern and shape. His concentric circles, outwardly extending lines, and geometric repetition masterfully explores visual art through its formal qualities. With an ostensible simplicity and pleasing repetition, modern patterns turned the Mid-Century home into a playground of visual amusements. Atomic motifs, stylized florals, and abstract designs quickly became emblems of the era. 


The middle of the 20th century was a golden age of nightlife. It was a time when “a night on the town” could mean sipping cocktails at New York City’s famous Stork Club or dancing to the rhumba in a supper club’s plush private rooms. Reviving this era of vibrant nightlife, Diana Elena Chelaru paints lively and rhythmic scenes. Her cast of colorful characters express the subtleties of social life and the energy of an evening out.


As the art scene exploded with new movements, art enthusiasts flocked to city museums and galleries ready to be shocked by contemporary artists’ latest creations. Whether the paint splattered chaos of Abstract Expressionism or the large-scale reproductions of magazine advertisements seen in the earliest Pop Art, mid-century art shook things up. Channeling the celebrated collections of contemporary art, Piero Manrique presents vibrant abstracts that burst off the canvas. As his shapes move and morph, they come alive with the vibrant energy of the mid-century art scene.


Retro-futurism takes us back to the future. A fusion of science and art, retro-futurism is a genre of creative art that looks back at the future as it was imagined in the past. Many contemporary authors and artists speculate on what mid-century moderns imagined their shining new technology would eventually evolve into, such as flying cars and high-speed rockets. Embodying retro-futurism’s linear and nonlinear schools of thought, Philip Harding blends science and art with his juxtaposed grids and spheres.