MoMA’s 1947 Mies van der Rohe Exhibition Through the Eyes of Charles Eames Posted November 25, 2019 by Kelsey Rose Williams

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City presented a retrospective from September through November 1947, The Architecture of Mies van der Rohe. On assignment, Charles Eames photographed and reviewed the exhibition for Arts & Architecture magazine’s December 1947 issue. Importantly, the exhibition was designed and installed by Mies van der Rohe himself.

“The Mies van der Rohe show itself is not a complete presentation of his work, and most of the few examples shown have been seen many times before, but somehow or other, this does not detract in any way from its greatness. The significant thing seems to be the way in which he has taken documents of his architecture and furniture and used them as elements in creating a space that says, “this is what it’s all about.” Certainly, it is the experience of walking through that space and seeing others move in it that is the high point of the exhibition. It comes off wonderfully in so many ways:

“In the sense of volume.

“In the sudden change of scale from a huge photo mural of a small pencil sketch, to quarter-inch-to-the-foot model, to man, to twice-life-size photograph, to actual pieces of furniture.

“In the simultaneous effect when the natural perspective of the planes of the room are combined with the perspective and planes of the life-sized photographs.

“And especially in the variety and richness of the exhibition derived from the simplest plan. By moving and turning within these simple elements one feels the impact of each new relationship.

“This experience forms a frame of reference from which the history of Mies van der Rohe’s work can be examined. It is good that in connection with the exhibition, Phillip Johnson, head of the museum’s Architectural Department, has compiled such a comprehensive book. History, examples, and chronology can be found in this monograph, but the exhibition itself provides the smell and feel of what makes it, and Mies van der Rohe, great.”

—Charles Eames

To view more information about this 1947 exhibition, please refer to the Museum of Modern Art. Images care of Arts & Architecture. This article is featured in An Eames Anthology alongside dozens of letters, photographs, lectures, film scripts, and other Eames primary sources.