[Modern design] is not a superimposed style, but an answer to present conditions...It has developed out of our own preferences for living in a modern way. It expresses our habits and our tastes.
Greta Magnusson Grossman
In 1950, Greta Magnusson Grossman was awarded the MoMA Good Design award for the Cobra lamp. The forms of Magnusson Grossman’s furniture and lamps are both organic and ultra modern in their simplicity and functionality. The finish on her lamps recalls automotive finishes, giving them a uniquely American quality. The Cobra lamp and Grasshopper lamp are her most enduring and popular designs.
These sketches are studies for lamps Magnusson Grossman designed for Ralph O. Smith in 1947 and 1948. They are taken from Greta Magnusson Grossman: Furniture and Lighting (The Drawing Center, Drawing Papers Volume 8, 2008).
Greta Magnusson Grossman 1906–1999
Greta Magnusson Grossman was one of the leading figures of the Los Angeles Modern movement. Born in Sweden in 1906, she began her formal training at the Swedish arts and crafts school Konstfack, where she studied woodworking and ceramics. In 1933, Grossman became the first woman to win second prize for her furniture designs at the Stockholm Craft Association’s furniture competition. After graduating, she opened her own critically acclaimed furniture and interior design atelier. With her popularity, she was even asked by a Swedish princess to design a crib for the royal baby.
After moving to the United States in 1940, Grossman famously reported to the press that the only things she needed for California living were “a car and a pair of shorts.” She continued her entrepreneurial streak by opening up a store in Beverly Hills where her designs were eagerly sought after by Hollywood stars like Greta Garbo, Gracie Allen, and Joan Fontaine. Grossman’s famed Cobra Lamp was featured in both of the Museum of Modern Art of New York’s Good Design exhibitions. Impressed by the famed Eames and Neutra Case Study House program, Grossman designed fourteen houses from 1949 to 1959. Among her most famous is the Hurley Residence in Beverly Hills, which features a melding between indoor and outdoor space, a steel frame construction, and sweeping cantilevers.