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Black and white photo of Urban’s sketch for Elaine’s room.

Joseph Urban’s sketch titled A Young Lady’s Room, 1929. Private Collection



Hello, my name is Amy Dehan. I am the Curator of Decorative Arts and Design; and the curator of Unlocking an Art Deco Bedroom by Joseph Urban. I will be reading The Wormser Bedroom section of the exhibition.

Given Joseph Urban’s intense devotion to and proclivity for film, opera, and theater design, it is not surprising that he developed Elaine Wormser’s bedroom as if depicting a scene. An account of the Wormser Bedroom written shortly after its completion reads,

The artist’s conception was that a girl is asleep on a hill looking down upon a flowered meadow. Accordingly, the bed stands on a platform and the carpet represents clusters of meadow flowers. . . [Urban] has introduced a touch of Viennese merriment that bespeaks the happiness of youth.

Urban’s design is a reflection on adolescence, a time when one foot remains in childhood while the other strides onward into adulthood. The Wormser Bedroom is at once youthful and sophisticated, feminine and edgy, serious and sweet. The green silk taffeta bedcover is hand-painted with cascades of delicate flowering vines but corseted at the corners with sultry black velvet ribbon. The room’s textiles present a cheery rainbow of colors, yet the walls and finishings of the furnishings are a deep, serious black. Urban’s best work revealed the complexities of the modern, human experience, and here, via the treatment of the ceiling and walls, he injects a real-time vitality through the changing reflection of moving bodies and light.

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