History of Design Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400–2000 Pat Kirkham, Susan Weber, Bard Graduate Center

Publication date:
15 Nov 2013
Bard Center
712 pages: 305 x 241mm
760 color + b-w illus.
Sales territories:


A survey of spectacular breadth, covering the history of decorative arts and design worldwide over the past six hundred years

Spanning six centuries of global design, this far-reaching survey is the first to offer an account of the vast history of decorative arts and design produced in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and the Islamic world, from 1400 to the present. Meticulously documented and lavishly illustrated, the volume covers interiors, furniture, textiles and dress, glass, graphics, metalwork, ceramics, exhibitions, product design, landscape and garden design, and theater and film design. Divided into four chronological sections, each of which is subdivided geographically, the authors elucidate the evolution of style, form, materials, and techniques, and address vital issues such as gender, race, patronage, cultural appropriation, continuity versus innovation, and high versus low culture.
Leading authorities in design history and decorative arts studies present hundreds of objects in their contemporary contexts, demonstrating the overwhelming extent to which the applied arts have enriched customs, ceremony, and daily life worldwide over the past six hundred years. This ambitious, landmark publication is essential reading, contributing a definitive classic to the existing scholarship on design, decorative arts, and material culture, while also introducing these subjects to new readers in a comprehensive, erudite book with widespread appeal.

Pat Kirkham is a professor at the Bard Graduate Center, where Susan Weber is founder and director.

"For those with deep pockets this season, the best titles are undoubtedly Susan Weber and Pat Kirkham’s History of Design, which is both a stunning visual survey of 600 years of making, and an in-depth look at the evolution of the very idea of design itself."—Michael Glover, The Independent

"Masterminded by Susan Weber, founder of New York’s prestigious Bard Graduate Center for the study of decorative arts, the book is the culmination of a long-cherished aim to create an authoritative reference work treating the design and cultural context of useful and decorative artefacts with the same degree of intellectual rigour and enthusiasm that is generally accorded in scholarly circles only to painting and sculpture."—Stephen Calloway, House & Garden Magazine

"This ambitious survey, which has been produced by the Bard Graduate Center in New York, grew out of the perceived lack of a satisfactory introduction to the applied arts that spanned historical and geographical borders. It looks set to fix that, gathering together 'adventurous scholars' and illustrating their incisive contributions with an excellent range of high-quality images."—Apollo Magazine

"History of Design is a remarkable achievement and should play a central role for encouraging the ongoing studies of decorative arts and design among students, and, one hopes, a broader public."—Christopher Menz, Australian Book Review

"This is an excellent resource not only for its breadth of content and its structure, but the opportunity it affords to approach and critically discuss the development of designed objects in relationship to their own cultures within a globalized world."—Carla Cesare, Journal of Design History