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'Will this Modernism Last?' Two 1929 House Beautiful Writers Engage in an Anachronistic and Delightful Debate

Welcome again to Back Issues, a summer series wherein Curbed raids the blissfully robust archives of House Beautiful, the grande dame of American decorating magazines, and retrieves the best bits of bygone decor. Have an old issue in the attic you'd like to share? Whip out the scanner and please, hit up the tipline.

The year is 1929. Modernism, having captivated the world's artistic tastemakers and sunk its talons into the aesthetic consciousness of the Western world, has dampened popular enthusiasm for things like classicism's Corinthian columns and the "urns and fanlights of the Georgian." Gone, as Thomas E. Tallmadge writes for the January issue of House Beautiful is the fancy for "pointed arches, gargoyles, and crockets," for "garlands, cartouches, modillions, and other trappings of the Renaissance." Indeed, modernism is "knocking on our doors and prying open the windows of our homes," he writes. In a multi-page spread, House Beautiful asks the big questions of the era: (1) is modernism a good thing (no way) and, more importantly, (2) will it last? Tallmadge says "yes," with a qualified (if inexplicit) "unfortunately so." Ralph Adams Cram (excerpted above) stands on the other side of the ring, arguing, "No. Not in itself, but it will leave an Influence for Good" ("despite its current propensity for ugliness," as the title ought to continue.) The articles, excerpts from which are below, provide intriguing insight into the mindset of the time, offering up whip-smart commentary with a heaping side helping of anachronistic hilarity. Have a look.

From Tallmadge's article:

From Cram's article:

The whole shebang:

· All Back Issues posts [Curbed National]