Around 1900, the quest for a new style dominated the artistic endeavors of all European countries. Italy was particularly self-conscious about this quest since its northern cities were in the throes of their first, and compared to the rest of Europe, belated industrial revolution.

On Wednesday, January 22, Wendy Kaplan, a leading authority on late 19th- to mid-20th-century design, will discuss Italy’s search for a forward-looking design—along with its inevitable longing for continuity with the past—in the Museum’s kickoff of its 2014 lecture series. Kaplan, department head and curator of decorative arts and design for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, will give her talk at 2:30 p.m. in the McKean Pavilion, just behind the Museum. The lecture will be followed by a reception.

At the turn of the 20th century, Italy was a newly-united country. It had to establish not only a national identity, but one that would be suited for the modern age. Kaplan will examine the leading proponents of Italian Art Nouveau with an eye to the Italian displays at the country’s first international modern decorative arts exhibition—the Prima Esposizione d’Arte Decorativa Moderna, held in Turin in 1902.

Kaplan has authored, coauthored, or edited books that include The Arts & Crafts Movement in Europe and America: Design for the Modern World 1880–1920 (2004); Leading “The Simple Life”: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain 1880–1910 (1999); Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1996); Designing Modernity: The Arts of Reform and Persuasion 1885–1945 (1995); The Arts and Crafts Movement (1991, French edition 1999); and “The Art that is Life”: The Arts and Crafts Movement in America (1987; reprint 1998).

A longtime friend of the Morse, Kaplan last lectured here in 2009. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from the Winterthur Program in Early American Material Culture at the University of Delaware and Winterthur Museum.