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Review of "XIX: 19th Century Design"
By Alan G. Artner
Tribune art critic
Published July 11, 2008

"XIX: 19th Century Design" is an exhibition of drawings and printsthat could be a pendant to the excellent "Design in the Age of Darwin" show at Northwestern University's Mary and Leigh Block Museum. But whereas that survey ordered design according to two opposing currents, the premise at ArchiTech Gallery is that the 19th Century offered a veritable melee of styles in which each jostled the other with little of the orderliness provided by subsequent histories.

We see, then, works from England, France and the United States by such major figures as Owen Jones, Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, Charles Garnier, Frank Lloyd Wright and John Wellborn Root. The styles are Empire, Gothic and Renaissance Revival, Beaux-Arts and Prairie. The kinds of works shown range from tile designs for a famous London club to wallpaper designs for a stately mansion and plans for the spectacular Paris Opera.

Of course, not every important tendency is represented, and notable by its absence is the exotic, erotic, end-of-the-century style known as Art Nouveau. But some of the most interesting works, such as Viollet-le-Duc's ornament for the tomb of Dagobert, the first king of France, are less tied to the taste of a particular stylistic period than others, so despite their intended function may be viewed almost as magnificent curiosities, two-dimensional objects from some cultural cabinet of wonder. (To view the exhibit's images, visit

At 730 N. Franklin St. 312-475-1290.

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David Jameson
ArchiTech Gallery
730 North Franklin suite 200
Chicago, IL 60610

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