Vladimir Lebedev. Cover of Vchera i segodnia (Yesterday and today) by Samuil Marshak. 1925
Lebedev’s philosophy toward children’s books was clear: they should be, in his words, “colorful, specific, concrete,” and find a balance between sophistication and accessibility, high and low. Though he drew on the avant-garde languages of Cubism and Suprematism, he never fully abandoned figuration, offering a familiar anchor to children while introducing them to new visual modes. Likewise, the goal of his collaborator, writer Samuil Marshak, was to create a new children’s literature, one that nourished the mind in both content and form. Lebedev and Marshak, who began working together in 1924, created dozens of books, many so popular that they were issued in massive editions of 10,000 with reprints not far behind.
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Vladimir Lebedev. Cover of Vchera i segodnia (Yesterday and today) by Samuil Marshak. 1925

Lebedev’s philosophy toward children’s books was clear: they should be, in his words, “colorful, specific, concrete,” and find a balance between sophistication and accessibility, high and low. Though he drew on the avant-garde languages of Cubism and Suprematism, he never fully abandoned figuration, offering a familiar anchor to children while introducing them to new visual modes. Likewise, the goal of his collaborator, writer Samuil Marshak, was to create a new children’s literature, one that nourished the mind in both content and form. Lebedev and Marshak, who began working together in 1924, created dozens of books, many so popular that they were issued in massive editions of 10,000 with reprints not far behind.

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Gioco delle 3 oche (Game of the 3 geese). 1944
Toy companies in both Axis and Allied countries produced board games, puzzles, and toys that made World War II seem fun. Italian children could play Gioco delle 3 oche, an allegorical game depicting the enemy as silly geese ready for slaughter.
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Gioco delle 3 oche (Game of the 3 geese). 1944

Toy companies in both Axis and Allied countries produced board games, puzzles, and toys that made World War II seem fun. Italian children could play Gioco delle 3 oche, an allegorical game depicting the enemy as silly geese ready for slaughter.

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Joaquín Torres -García. Village with Numbers. 1928
Torres-García complemented his sculptural practice of experimental abstractions in wood with the design of play objects, which he viewed as an equally valid form of artistic expression. The creative potential inherent in such toys is present in his Numerario, which allowed the child to order, stack, disassemble, and reassemble the buildings, bridges, and other elements of a village streetscape. In such construction toys, Torres-García laid particular stress on the importance of supplying the child with abstract components rather than readymade or fully constructed copies of objects found in daily life.
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Joaquín Torres -García. Village with Numbers. 1928

Torres-García complemented his sculptural practice of experimental abstractions in wood with the design of play objects, which he viewed as an equally valid form of artistic expression. The creative potential inherent in such toys is present in his Numerario, which allowed the child to order, stack, disassemble, and reassemble the buildings, bridges, and other elements of a village streetscape. In such construction toys, Torres-García laid particular stress on the importance of supplying the child with abstract components rather than readymade or fully constructed copies of objects found in daily life.

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

El Lissitzky. Double-page spread from Pro dva kvadrata. Suprematicheskii skaz v 6-ti postroikakh (Of Two Squares: A Suprematist Tale in Six Constructions). 1920
This short picture book for children presented a radical rethinking of the genre through the combination of dynamic page layouts with a nonobjective visual language of geometric forms, and a restricted palette of red, black, and white. Using only the sparest text, Lissitzky tells the story of two squares, one red and one black, sent from the cosmos to battle it out and bring order to chaos. At the end of the tale, the red square vanquishes the black in what is often considered an allegorical retelling of the victorious Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. However, in the end, the obtuse poetic terseness and unflinching abstraction, unfamiliar to children’s eyes, didn’t connect with its target audience.
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

El Lissitzky. Double-page spread from Pro dva kvadrata. Suprematicheskii skaz v 6-ti postroikakh (Of Two Squares: A Suprematist Tale in Six Constructions). 1920

This short picture book for children presented a radical rethinking of the genre through the combination of dynamic page layouts with a nonobjective visual language of geometric forms, and a restricted palette of red, black, and white. Using only the sparest text, Lissitzky tells the story of two squares, one red and one black, sent from the cosmos to battle it out and bring order to chaos. At the end of the tale, the red square vanquishes the black in what is often considered an allegorical retelling of the victorious Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. However, in the end, the obtuse poetic terseness and unflinching abstraction, unfamiliar to children’s eyes, didn’t connect with its target audience.

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Ray Eames and Charles Eames. Child’s chair. 1944
Among the Eameses’ earliest designs was a 1945 series of children’s furniture molded from a single piece of plywood; the chair, stool, and table were diminutive in scale and dyed in saturated hues of red, blue, yellow, black, and magenta. Like other modernist bentwood designs, the pair’s children’s furniture exemplified efficient modern technology and rational production, while the heart-shape motif on the chair back also signified innocence and sweetness. The pair’s playful partnership and interest in children’s goods extended to many different kinds of objects for the modern playroom, including the House of Cards, Hang-It-All clothing rack, abstract Walking Horse, and Drawing Toy.
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Ray Eames and Charles Eames. Child’s chair. 1944

Among the Eameses’ earliest designs was a 1945 series of children’s furniture molded from a single piece of plywood; the chair, stool, and table were diminutive in scale and dyed in saturated hues of red, blue, yellow, black, and magenta. Like other modernist bentwood designs, the pair’s children’s furniture exemplified efficient modern technology and rational production, while the heart-shape motif on the chair back also signified innocence and sweetness. The pair’s playful partnership and interest in children’s goods extended to many different kinds of objects for the modern playroom, including the House of Cards, Hang-It-All clothing rack, abstract Walking Horse, and Drawing Toy.

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Piet Zwart. Het Boek van PTT (The PTT book). 1938
Zwart created the endearing paper figure of Mr. Post, in the form of this book and a related toy, to teach children about the Dutch postal service and telecommunications network. The gentle humor of both text and image that gives this national corporation a family-friendly aspect was unusual at the time but has since become a familiar branding strategy. Zwart’s pioneering role in the avant-garde New Typography movement is apparent in his experimental use of sans serif type, photomontage, overlaid colored inks, and the organization of the page layout around an underlying grid.
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Piet Zwart. Het Boek van PTT (The PTT book). 1938

Zwart created the endearing paper figure of Mr. Post, in the form of this book and a related toy, to teach children about the Dutch postal service and telecommunications network. The gentle humor of both text and image that gives this national corporation a family-friendly aspect was unusual at the time but has since become a familiar branding strategy. Zwart’s pioneering role in the avant-garde New Typography movement is apparent in his experimental use of sans serif type, photomontage, overlaid colored inks, and the organization of the page layout around an underlying grid.

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Times Wide World Photos. “A Famous School of Dance Has a Birthday,” class at an Isadora Duncan dance school. 1929
A quasimystical belief in the psychological and therapeutic power of expressive movement inspired pioneers of modern dance education in Europe and the United States, among them Isadora Duncan and Margaret Morris, each of whom established private schools for children. Classes were frequently conducted outdoors, and emphasized a natural athleticism. Touring troupes of scantily clad girls trained by Duncan performed with bare feet and loose hair, causing a public sensation before and after World War I.
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Times Wide World Photos. “A Famous School of Dance Has a Birthday,” class at an Isadora Duncan dance school. 1929

A quasimystical belief in the psychological and therapeutic power of expressive movement inspired pioneers of modern dance education in Europe and the United States, among them Isadora Duncan and Margaret Morris, each of whom established private schools for children. Classes were frequently conducted outdoors, and emphasized a natural athleticism. Touring troupes of scantily clad girls trained by Duncan performed with bare feet and loose hair, causing a public sensation before and after World War I.

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Advertisement for Gymbo School & Gym Shoes. 1930
This brochure advertising Gymbo shoes emphasizes the “absolute freedom” given to every part of the foot by the rubber-soled canvas shoes that were required for pupils in most British schools in the 1930s. With medical experts and educators endorsing the beneficial effects of physical activity on academic performance as well as general health, schools began to pay greater attention to nurturing children’s bodies through movement and exercise. Innovations in children’s clothing soon followed, with designs for activewear to accommodate this new emphasis on freedom of movement. Girls in particular benefited from the increased mobility and encouragement to participate in sport or dance that challenged conventional constructions of femininity.
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Advertisement for Gymbo School & Gym Shoes. 1930

This brochure advertising Gymbo shoes emphasizes the “absolute freedom” given to every part of the foot by the rubber-soled canvas shoes that were required for pupils in most British schools in the 1930s. With medical experts and educators endorsing the beneficial effects of physical activity on academic performance as well as general health, schools began to pay greater attention to nurturing children’s bodies through movement and exercise. Innovations in children’s clothing soon followed, with designs for activewear to accommodate this new emphasis on freedom of movement. Girls in particular benefited from the increased mobility and encouragement to participate in sport or dance that challenged conventional constructions of femininity.

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Jan Duiker. Cliostraat Openluchtschool voor het Gezonde Kind (Open-air school for the healthy child), Amsterdam. 1927-30
Though open-air schools–which emphasized welcoming, flexible spaces and access to plenty of fresh air and sunlight–from earlier in the century had been largely focused on serving sickly children, this school was for the healthy. By deploying large windows, cantilevered concrete structures, and steel frames Duiker designed a compact building flooded with light and air. Of his design, the architect said, “Modern techniques enable us to keep the material used in the building to a minimum and to heat these almost entirely open spaces without any difficulty so that children need only wear the lightest clothing, as is medically recommended.”
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Jan Duiker. Cliostraat Openluchtschool voor het Gezonde Kind (Open-air school for the healthy child), Amsterdam. 1927-30

Though open-air schools–which emphasized welcoming, flexible spaces and access to plenty of fresh air and sunlight–from earlier in the century had been largely focused on serving sickly children, this school was for the healthy. By deploying large windows, cantilevered concrete structures, and steel frames Duiker designed a compact building flooded with light and air. Of his design, the architect said, “Modern techniques enable us to keep the material used in the building to a minimum and to heat these almost entirely open spaces without any difficulty so that children need only wear the lightest clothing, as is medically recommended.”

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Margarete (Grete) Lihotzky. Perspective view from the southeast (view of the rotunda), design for an extension of Ernst Egli’s school for girls, Ankara. 1938
Lihotzky, perhaps best known for the design of modernist kitchens in the 1920s, designed numerous facilities and furniture for children in the course of her itinerant architectural career. Forced to leave the Soviet Union in 1937 because of a Stalinist purge of foreign expats, she eventually found work at the Istanbul Académie des Beaux-Arts through her friend, architect Bruno Taut, designing schools for the Ministry of Education. Turkey was a young republic undergoing radical modernization, a process being given architectural form by predominantly German-Austrian modernists. In her design for a girls’ school in Ankara, the new capital, Lihotzky combined simple, geometric volumes and a rational layout with a reference to monuments of the former Turkish Ottoman empire in the form of a double-story glazed rotunda.
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Margarete (Grete) Lihotzky. Perspective view from the southeast (view of the rotunda), design for an extension of Ernst Egli’s school for girls, Ankara. 1938

Lihotzky, perhaps best known for the design of modernist kitchens in the 1920s, designed numerous facilities and furniture for children in the course of her itinerant architectural career. Forced to leave the Soviet Union in 1937 because of a Stalinist purge of foreign expats, she eventually found work at the Istanbul Académie des Beaux-Arts through her friend, architect Bruno Taut, designing schools for the Ministry of Education. Turkey was a young republic undergoing radical modernization, a process being given architectural form by predominantly German-Austrian modernists. In her design for a girls’ school in Ankara, the new capital, Lihotzky combined simple, geometric volumes and a rational layout with a reference to monuments of the former Turkish Ottoman empire in the form of a double-story glazed rotunda.

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Nigel Henderson. Untitled, from Chisenhale Road Series. 1951
In 1953 architects Peter and Alison Smithson collaborated with photographer Nigel Henderson on this influential visual statement of their new approach to urban planning. As seen in this mapping of urban experience—from house to street, and district to city—it is children at play who embody the Smithsons’ guiding principle of social connectivity that underpins the concept of a “cluster city”. The Smithsons were critical of the prevailing modernist orthodoxy of the rational, zoned city; instead they searched for new architectural equivalents to the more intuitive unfolding of spatial relationships that they observed in children’s play. Their approach brought them together with Aldo van Eyck and other dissenting architects within CIAM.
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Nigel Henderson. Untitled, from Chisenhale Road Series. 1951

In 1953 architects Peter and Alison Smithson collaborated with photographer Nigel Henderson on this influential visual statement of their new approach to urban planning. As seen in this mapping of urban experience—from house to street, and district to city—it is children at play who embody the Smithsons’ guiding principle of social connectivity that underpins the concept of a “cluster city”. The Smithsons were critical of the prevailing modernist orthodoxy of the rational, zoned city; instead they searched for new architectural equivalents to the more intuitive unfolding of spatial relationships that they observed in children’s play. Their approach brought them together with Aldo van Eyck and other dissenting architects within CIAM.

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Abram Games. Your Britain, Fight for It Now. 1942.
In this poster, the radiant entrance to the Finsbury Health Centre stands in front of a dark and blasted wartime landscape, where a sickly child plays in a puddle of muddy water amid total devastation. The center, radical in terms of its modernist architecture and medical philosophy, had delivered free medical care since 1935 in Finsbury, a working-class borough blighted by tuberculosis and slum housing. The political implications of the Finsbury center as the model for a national health scheme was not lost on the Conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who ordered the entire issue of this poster to be destroyed on the grounds that it would damage national morale.
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Abram Games. Your Britain, Fight for It Now. 1942.

In this poster, the radiant entrance to the Finsbury Health Centre stands in front of a dark and blasted wartime landscape, where a sickly child plays in a puddle of muddy water amid total devastation. The center, radical in terms of its modernist architecture and medical philosophy, had delivered free medical care since 1935 in Finsbury, a working-class borough blighted by tuberculosis and slum housing. The political implications of the Finsbury center as the model for a national health scheme was not lost on the Conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who ordered the entire issue of this poster to be destroyed on the grounds that it would damage national morale.

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Niels Brodersen and Richard Grune. Cover of the book Die rote Kinderrepublik (Red children’s republic), by Andreas Gayk. 1930
This book documents the Red Children’s Republic constructed by two thousand Red Falcons, both boys and girls, who gathered on a remote lakeside to create a temporary utopian and egalitarian community. The Red Falcons, a German youth organization established in 1925 with the Social Democratic Party, recruited children from the urban working classes and emphasized personal development through contact with nature. The resulting book, “by workers’ children, for workers’ children,” was designed according to the principles of the New Typography movement, with sans serif type, asymmetrical page layouts, and photomontage, which reinforced the holiday camp’s revolutionary significance. The group was outlawed following Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Niels Brodersen and Richard Grune. Cover of the book Die rote Kinderrepublik (Red children’s republic), by Andreas Gayk. 1930

This book documents the Red Children’s Republic constructed by two thousand Red Falcons, both boys and girls, who gathered on a remote lakeside to create a temporary utopian and egalitarian community. The Red Falcons, a German youth organization established in 1925 with the Social Democratic Party, recruited children from the urban working classes and emphasized personal development through contact with nature. The resulting book, “by workers’ children, for workers’ children,” was designed according to the principles of the New Typography movement, with sans serif type, asymmetrical page layouts, and photomontage, which reinforced the holiday camp’s revolutionary significance. The group was outlawed following Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Giacomo Balla. Child’s wardrobe. 1918
Childlike figures composed of geometric forms flank the sides of this wardrobe. The piece was from a series of experimental interiors and toys for children created by Balla at the height of his involvement with Italian Futurism, an early-twentieth-century movement that emphasized concepts such as speed and industry, it also followed the birth of his second daughter, Elica (“propellor” in Italian), in 1914. Balla viewed design for children as an important part of the Futurist mission to reconstruct society, seeing their youthful energy was a natural match for expressions of the frenetic tempo of modern life.
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Giacomo Balla. Child’s wardrobe. 1918

Childlike figures composed of geometric forms flank the sides of this wardrobe. The piece was from a series of experimental interiors and toys for children created by Balla at the height of his involvement with Italian Futurism, an early-twentieth-century movement that emphasized concepts such as speed and industry, it also followed the birth of his second daughter, Elica (“propellor” in Italian), in 1914. Balla viewed design for children as an important part of the Futurist mission to reconstruct society, seeing their youthful energy was a natural match for expressions of the frenetic tempo of modern life.

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

SAKAMPF board game. 1933
After 1933 all German children’s organizations were outlawed except for the officially sanctioned Hitler Youth, and the paramilitary overtones of German youth culture became more pronounced. These priorities were reinforced by Nazi-themed toys, books, and board games such as SAKAMPF, which prepared young boys for an active role in the armed forces and encouraged them to identify with the Nazi insignia and ideology.
Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

SAKAMPF board game. 1933

After 1933 all German children’s organizations were outlawed except for the officially sanctioned Hitler Youth, and the paramilitary overtones of German youth culture became more pronounced. These priorities were reinforced by Nazi-themed toys, books, and board games such as SAKAMPF, which prepared young boys for an active role in the armed forces and encouraged them to identify with the Nazi insignia and ideology.

Learn more at MoMA.org/centuryofthechild

Get your daily dose of design from the MoMA exhibition Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000. During each of the 100 days of the exhibition we will showcase an object featured in the show.

To find out more about Century of the Child visit MoMA.org/centuryofthechild.

Purchase the exhibition catalogue on MoMAStore.org or get the digital edition for the iPad on iTunes.

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