Color drawing of a bedroom for a stage production, featuring colorful, transparent drapery with floral patterning.
Hello, my name is Kiara Galloway and I am a Visitor Services Assistant at the museum. I will be reading the Joseph Urban’s Style section in Unlocking an Art Deco Bedroom by Joseph Urban.
What differentiated Urban’s style from his contemporaries? The following qualities appear across the artist’s various endeavors.
A daring and unprecedented use of color to conjure mood and energy persisted throughout Urban’s career. Some critics suggest that this was the most defining aspect of his work. A pure, penetrating shade of cerulean blue, often employed by the artist, became known as "Urban Blue," a description still used in artistic and theatrical circles today.
Urban was an expert storyteller, a skill honed through his early work in illustration and stage design. No matter the project, he realized that for authenticity and success, he must fully know his characters (or inhabitants), his audience (or clients), and the narrative to be told. When a project lacked an inherent storyline, he developed one as part of his working process. Architectural historian Christopher Long observed, "Even when he wasn’t designing stage sets, his interiors came off as places for drama—the drama of modern life."
Though he worked tirelessly to create a distinctly American brand of modernism, Urban never abandoned the influences of his homeland. In fact, it was likely his integration of the Viennese balance of utility and simplicity with a colorful and playful air that made modernism more palatable for his American audiences.
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