Design in the Age of Darwin

Trade Paper – $36.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-5204-5
Publication Date
May 2008
Page Count
140 pages
Trim Size
9 1/2 x 10

Design in the Age of Darwin

From William Morris to Frank Lloyd Wright
Stephen F Eisenman

Charles Darwin's monumental On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, forever changed the landscape of natural science. The scientific world of the time had already established the principle of the "intelligent design" of a Creator; the art world had spent centuries devoting itself to the celebration of such a Designer's creation. But the language of the book, and its implications, were stunning, and the ripples Darwin made when he rocked the boat spread outward: if he could question the Designer, what effect might there be on the art world, and on mortal designers' renderings of Creation?

Published in partnership with the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art to accompany its exhibit, this catalog of essays and more than fifty color exhibition plates invokes these two senses of "intelligent design"--one from the debates between science and theology and the other from the world of art, particularly architecture and the decorative arts. The extensive exhibition includes furniture, metalware, glassware, textiles, and designs on loan from public and private collections in the United States and England. Among the artwork included are items from William Morris, C. R. Ashbee, Christopher Dresser, C. F. A. Voysey, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis Sullivan. Through these pieces and the accompanying examinations, the book explores how popular conceptions of the theory of evolution were used or rejected by British and American artists in the years that followed Darwin's publication.

About the Author

Stephen Eisenman is a noted art historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century art with a particular scholarly focus on the arts and crafts movement. He received a grant from the Northwestern University Graduate School (2006) to conduct travel research for the “Design in the Age of Darwin” exhibition. Eisenman will curate the exhibition and serve as principal author of the accompanying catalog. He lives in Chicago.


Corinne Granof is an associate curator at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. She has organized a number of the exhibitions of modern American and European art and has written on a broad range of topics, with a focus on early twentieth-century German art. She lives in Chicago.