October 6, 2009 Pioneering Modernist Designer Gilbert Rohde Is Subject of Discussion By Author Phyllis Ross

Ross’ Book Offers Detailed Account of Rohde’s Life and Work

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

Few designers did more to change the appearance of postwar American interiors than Gilbert Rohde (1894-1944). In her new book, Phyllis Ross traces Rohde’s career at the Herman Miller Furniture Co. in the 1930s and 1940s through the remainder of his brief but influential career.

“Gilbert Rohde: Modern Design for Modern Living” is the subject of a discussion on Thursday, Oct. 22, at noon in the Pickford Theater, located on the third floor of the Library’s James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. The event, part of the Books & Beyond author series of the Center for the Book, is free and open to the public; no tickets are required. The discussion is co-sponsored by the Center for the Book and the Prints and Photographs Division’s Center for Architecture, Design and Engineering.

Ross is an independent scholar specializing in 20th-century design. Her book is the first comprehensive appraisal of the designer’s achievements and puts Rohde’s life and work in the context of the social, economic and cultural forces of the first half of the 20th century.

According to Ross, Rohde is the critical connecting force between the early emergence of American modernism and the distinctively American look of the postwar era. In addition to being a designer, Rohde also excelled as an educator, mass marketer and advocate for the designer’s role in manufacturing and the adoption of new materials. Rohde was the first in the American design industry to reposition the sales message from selling furniture to selling a lifestyle—with the imprimatur of designer branding. He rethought nearly every aspect of Herman Miller’s merchandizing—from showroom to catalog to advertising—by writing copy, supervising photography and selecting typefaces. He even designed sales areas of department stores such as the upscale Halle’s in Cleveland.

“Gilbert Rohde: Modern Design for Modern Living” will be for sale and signing following the program.

The Center for the Book (www.loc.gov/cfbook/) was established by Congress in 1977 “to use the resources and prestige of the Library of Congress to promote books, reading, literacy and libraries.” With its many educational programs that reach readers of all ages, through its support of the National Book Festival and through its dynamic state centers in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Center for the Book has developed a nationwide network of organizational partners dedicated to promoting the wonders and benefits of reading. The center’s Books and Beyond author series brings writers of all genres to the Library of Congress to discuss their work. The Center also oversees the new read.gov website.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. It seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.


PR 09-202
ISSN 0731-3527