“Cowcumbers and Cornucopia”: Rediscovering the Grotesque in Design
The grotesque is one of the most engaging and enduring motifs in the western ornamental repertoire and has had a profound impact on over four centuries of art and design. Endlessly versatile, the grotesque provided designers with an opportunity to showcase both their artistic imagination and their technical virtuosity. To accompany Fragile Beasts, Cooper Hewitt’s new exhibition of grotesque ornament prints and drawings from its collection, Sarah Grant, Curator in the Word and Image department of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, will provide an overview of the grotesque in all its many fanciful and provocative permutations: from its origins in ancient Rome and its rediscovery and eccentric treatment in the Renaissance to its grandiose and elegant variations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
As a curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Sarah Grant is responsible for the British national collection of engraved ornament. She led an Esmée Fairbairn Foundation-funded project to catalogue the museum’s 28,000 ornament prints and curated the V&A’s 2015 display on the neoclassical ornament of Ennemond Alexandre Petitot.