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Modernism in Scandinavia: Art, Design and Exhibitions


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor and tutor: Dr Charlotte Ashby
  • Assessment: a 3000-word essay (100%)

Module description

In this module we focus on the development of a distinctive strand of Modernism within the Scandinavian region and the phenomenal transformation from cultural backwater to recognised centre for design excellence over the period 1900-1950.

One strand of the module looks at the art and design produced in the region and local debates around modernity, national identity and social responsibility in art and design as well as historiographic issues regarding the expansion of the canon and the writing of national art histories.

The other strand looks at the emergence of the idea of Scandinavian design in Britain and America through marketing materials, texts and exhibitions produced inside and outside Scandinavia.

Indicative syllabus

  • National styles in painting, architecture and design around 1900
  • Scandinavia on display: world’s fairs
  • The export of Nordic classicism
  • Stockholm 1930 Exhibition: functionalism for everyone
  • Constructions of the North: whiteness and Nordic colonialism
  • Starchitects: Alvar Aalto and Arne Jacobsen
  • Public art: can fine art be democratic?
  • 'Design in Scandinavia’: international exhibitions
  • The rediscovery of Scandinavian symbolism: international reception
  • Scandinavian design: a timeless classic?

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • have a detailed knowledge of the development of Modernism in Scandinavian art and design
  • be able to observe, identify and analyse works of visual culture
  • have a critical awareness of the functions of such works within the social and cultural contexts of their production and reception
  • be familiar with current debates and approaches to the subject.