Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/exhibitions/1108827551/

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

Ilonka Karasz (American, b. Hungary, 1896–1981) is an important yet overlooked figure in 20th-century design. During her long and prolific career, she worked in a wide variety of media, producing designs for wallcoverings, textiles, carpets, lighting, ceramics, metalwork, toys, and furniture. She is perhaps most well known for her popular cover illustrations for the New Yorker magazine. Through her ambitious creative output, Karasz helped popularize a modern aesthetic in the United States. In addition to highlighting the depth and breadth of Karasz’s creativity, this exhibition presents the museum’s recent acquisition of exquisite Karasz drawings and related wallpapers from the 1940s. A native of Hungary, Karasz studied at the Royal School of Arts and Crafts in Budapest before arriving in New York in 1913 and immersing herself in the city’s avant-garde artistic community. Her prize-winning textile designs for the “Designed in America” campaign, sponsored by Women’s Wear Daily, propelled her career forward in the early 1920s. Turning to industrial design, Karasz created furnishings and metalwork for the high-profile exhibitions of American Designers’ Gallery in 1928 and 1929. She collaborated with notable designers such as Donald Deskey (American, 1894–1989), who frequently employed her textiles in his designs for interiors. From the 1940s–1960s, her wallpaper designs for the firm Katzenbach and Warren brought her national exposure, as she produced contemporary designs that deliberately called attention to the two-dimensional aspects of wallcoverings and referenced Asian art and Islamic architecture. Her scenic papers and graphic murals were printed using novel techniques that preserved the expressivity of her drawings. Into the early 1970s, she continued illustrating covers for books and magazines, many of which portrayed city scenes and life around her home in suburban Brewster, New York.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18353341/

  • hand-colored lithograph on paper mounted on cardboard
  • Gift of W. H. Solle
  • birds
  • theater
  • garden
  • amusement

This print is part of a series of designs for toy theaters by Benjamin Pollock. Popular amusements in the 19th century, toy theaters allowed children to re-enact plays at home, and Pollock’s prints often provided scenic backdrops and colorful characters. Karasz used this print and others from Pollock’s Scenes in Cinderella in her design for the Cinderella wallpaper on view nearby.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18388471/

  • screen printed on paper
  • grass
  • foliage
  • ducks
  • outline

One of Karasz’s earlier repeating patterns, Ducks and Grasses displays a creative use of positive and negative space. The ducks are rendered as outlines and assume the background coloring, while the use of grasses in front and behind the ducks suggests depth.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18420445/

  • machine printed on paper
  • Gift of Jessup, Inc.
  • landscape
  • graphic design
  • children
  • theater
  • interiors

This children’s wallpaper consists of scenes from the fairytale Cinderella. While this design was arranged by Karasz, it is one of the few wallpaper designs not containing her original artwork. The design is based on images from Pollock’s Scenes in Cinderella, some of which could be found in the Cooper Union Museum collection and on view nearby.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18432145/

  • offset lithograph on paper
  • Gift of Anonymous Donor
  • graphic design
  • New York
  • magazine
  • World's Fair
  • women designers

Ilonka Karasz designed 186 covers for the New Yorker, many of which are distinguished by elevated, angled views of New York street scenes. This playful illustration depicts the Avenue of Patriots at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and highlights the fair’s special transportation system and bustling crowds. Karasz’s designs for the magazine showed New York subjects in a modern European style, creating a visual art that was distinctly American.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18487369/

  • brush and yellow, red, orange gouache, graphite on tracing paper
  • Gift of Donald Deskey
  • interior
  • decoration
  • design
  • home
  • abstraction
  • geometric
  • grid
  • spirals

The bright spirals and squares of this drawing resemble a 1928 design that Ilonka Karasz created for a child’s nursery at the American Designers' Gallery in New York. Karasz was one of the first designers to create modern nurseries, and her interiors for children are full of simple shapes in a range of colors and sizes to encourage engagement and psychological development. This carpet design cleverly incorporates a range of circular and rectangular forms in a yellow and orange palette.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18639865/

  • hand painted on drafting cloth
  • Gift of Abraham Edelman
  • architecture
  • children
  • New York City
  • urban
  • boats

This design for a frieze or mural decoration was never produced and is being shown here for the first time. The view captures New York City’s Lower East Side with the fish market in the background and Staten Island Ferry in the distance. The appearance of the limousine in both the left and right sides indicate the design was meant to repeat. This landscape view has a greater sense of depth than many of Karasz’s designs, and uses a selection of bright colors.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18643097/

  • Manufactured by Paye & Baker Manufacturing Company
  • electro-plated nickel silver
  • Museum purchase from Decorative Arts Association Acquisition and General Acquisitions Endowment Funds
  • interior
  • decoration
  • container
  • tableware
  • concentric
  • triangles
  • geometric
  • sleek
  • cone
  • revolve

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18643099/

  • Manufactured by Paye & Baker Manufacturing Company
  • electro-plated nickel silver
  • Museum purchase from Decorative Arts Association Acquisition and General Acquisitions Endowment Funds
  • decoration
  • domestic
  • home
  • tableware
  • silver
  • art deco
  • geometric
  • cone
  • disk

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18667337/

  • screen-printed paper
  • Gift of Lanette Scheeline
  • boats
  • farming
  • trains
  • picnic

This is one of only a few of Karasz’s murals printed in color. The mural shows a romantic vision of rural America bustling with activity, including a family picnicking, farmers working the fields, and one man boating and another fishing in the lake.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18704677/

  • graphite on tracing paper
  • Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund
  • design
  • home
  • dining
  • metal
  • geometric
  • personal environment
  • raised
  • Bauhaus

This drawing documents Karasz’s exploration of early modern forms in her initial concepts for electroplated nickel silver tableware. An array of rounded and conical shapes, Karasz’s designs are likely inspired by the metalwork of Bauhaus designer Marianne Brandt. Her designs for teapots similarly incorporate ebony in the handle and lid.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51685217/

  • Manufactured by Paye & Baker Manufacturing Company
  • electro-plated nickel silver, walnut
  • Gift of Harry C. Sigman
  • dining
  • coffee/tea drinking
  • drinking
  • cylinder
  • silver
  • serve
  • fluted
  • wood
  • extrude

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68243957/

  • electro-plated nickel silver
  • Gift of George R. Kravis II
  • tableware
  • silver
  • geometric
  • metalwork
  • serving
  • serving ware

After studying in Budapest, Karasz arrived in the United States in 1913, where a little over ten years later she began to establish herself as an influential designer in a variety of media. Although her designs show multiple references to her European past, they also display a combination of modern ideas associated with her new home. In this silver-plated sugar bowl and creamer, she developed the idea of using one form and adapting it with additional elements and parts. The use of silver-plated nickel—instead of expensive solid silver—and the pure geometric shapes that imply industrial production, made these serving pieces easy to clean and maintain.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68243959/

  • electro-plated nickel silver
  • Gift of George R. Kravis II
  • tableware
  • silver
  • geometric
  • metalwork
  • serving
  • serving ware

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68268203/

  • Manufactured by Design Group Inc.
  • luxograph print on paper
  • Gift of Marilyn Friedman
  • foliage
  • bark
  • brochure
  • forest

This promotional brochure for a mural is printed in the same technique as the full-size mural. The exterior shows a detail of the mural in actual size and color, while the interior displays the full mural. The brochure includes hanging suggestions and lists the twelve available ink and paper combinations, and shows both a positive and negative print of the design.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/85019153/

  • screen printed on paper
  • Gift of Katzenbach and Warren, Inc.
  • line
  • fluid lines
  • bold
  • colorful
  • fluid

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/102334809/

  • mezzotone print on paper
  • Gift of Katzenbach and Warren, Inc.
  • exotic
  • garden
  • architectural
  • doorway

These four mural miniatures show a selection of the twelve color combinations of ink and paper in which these murals were available.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/102334813/

  • mezzotone print on paper
  • Gift of Katzenbach and Warren, Inc.
  • pavilion
  • exotic
  • garden
  • architectural

These four mural miniatures show a selection of the twelve color combinations of ink and paper in which these murals were available.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/102334847/

  • mezzotone print on paper
  • Gift of Katzenbach and Warren, Inc.
  • exotic
  • garden
  • architectural
  • doorway

These four mural miniatures show a selection of the twelve color combinations of ink and paper in which these murals were available.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/102334901/

  • mezzotone print on paper
  • Gift of Katzenbach and Warren, Inc.
  • butterflies
  • exotic
  • architectural
  • curtains

These four mural miniatures show a selection of the twelve color combinations of ink and paper in which these murals were available.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/1108711609/

  • cotton
  • American Textile History Museum Collection, gift of Michele Palmer
  • floral
  • animals
  • foliage
  • colorful
  • farming

This image of a farmer and his wife first appeared on the August 19, 1944, issue of the New Yorker, one of 186 covers Karasz created for the magazine. Nearly ten years later, she adapted the design into a repeating print for affordable cotton fabrics produced by Associated American Artists.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/1108750169/

  • graphite, pen and ink on linen
  • Gift of Matthew L. Edelman
  • figures
  • music
  • musical instruments
  • wallpaper design
  • kites
  • terrace

Karasz’s drawings for the wallpaper mural Serenade demonstrate her exquisite draftsmanship. Drawn in graphite and pen and ink on a one-to-one scale, the courtyard fantasy presents an array of pavements, gates, trellises, balconies, and roofs. The mural’s geometric textures and narrative details at once evoke a Persian miniature and contemporary abstract painting.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/1108750171/

  • graphite, pen and ink on linen
  • Gift of Matthew L. Edelman
  • architecture
  • fish
  • butterflies
  • children
  • games
  • fanciful
  • wallpaper design
  • kites
  • hoops

Karasz’s drawings for the wallpaper mural Serenade demonstrate her exquisite draftsmanship. Drawn in graphite and pen and ink on a one-to-one scale, the courtyard fantasy presents an array of pavements, gates, trellises, balconies, and roofs. The mural’s geometric textures and narrative details at once evoke a Persian miniature and contemporary abstract painting.

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/1158804403/

  • glazed earthenware
  • Gift of Ashley and Mark Callahan in memory of Solveig Cox
  • home
  • trees
  • house
  • dog
  • folk art

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/1158804409/

  • glazed earthenware
  • Gift of Ashley and Mark Callahan in memory of Solveig Cox
  • flowers
  • stylized
  • deer
  • folk art

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/1158818309/

  • Designed by Ilonka Karasz
  • blueprint method on paper

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/1158818311/

  • Manufactured by Katzenbach and Warren, Inc.
  • blueprint method on paper

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/1158818313/

  • Manufactured by Katzenbach and Warren, Inc.
  • blueprint method on paper

Ilonka Karasz, Works from the Collection

https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/1158822627/

  • Courtesy of Marilyn Friedman
  • graphic design
  • exhibition
  • modernism
  • interiors

The American Designers’ Gallery was established in 1928 to showcase the work of fifteen prominent American artists and designers with the goal of introducing contemporary art and design in America. Karasz was one of fifteen founding members and contributed designs for a model office and a nursery, as well as designing the catalog cover.