Textile Exhibit to Feature Picasso, Dali, Matisse Designs
By William Lamb / Published by Dwell
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A London exhibition uses works by Picasso, Dali, Matisse, and others to trace the evolution of 20th century textile design.

London’s Fashion and Textile Museum is tracing the history of 20th century textile design through an exhibition featuring rare examples by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse and other artists better known for working with canvas than fabric.

A collage-based abstract design by Jon Catleugh, produced by David Whitehead Ltd. The Lancashire-based firm produced three textiles by Catleugh, all of which were developed from artworks exhibited in 1953. Courtesy of the Fashion and Textile Museum.

A collage-based abstract design by Jon Catleugh, produced by David Whitehead Ltd. The Lancashire-based firm produced three textiles by Catleugh, all of which were developed from artworks exhibited in 1953. Courtesy of the Fashion and Textile Museum.

The exhibition, titled “Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol,” opens January 31 and runs through May 17, 2014. More than 200 pieces, many of which are being displayed for the first time, will detail the evolution of textile design, touching on examples from major 20th century art movements, including Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, Abstraction, Surrealism, and Pop Art.

"White Trellis," an artist’s square designed by Graham Sutherland for Ascher Ltd, 1946. Ascher exhibted a version of this scarf and a companion design at "Britain Can Make It," a 1946 London exhibition of industrial and product designs. Courtesy of the Fashion and Textile Museum.

The story begins in the 1910s with designs conceived by members of the Omega Workshops, a collective that operated out of a Georgian townhouse in London. The artists, including Wyndham Lewis, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, wanted to change “the erroneous distinction between fine and applied art,” according to the museum. The Fauvist painter Raoul Dufy was among the first artists to put serious time and effort into coming up with textile designs, and his work influenced artists and companies in Britain, Europe, and the United States.

"Family Group," an artist’s square designed by Henry Moore for Ascher, was exhibited both at "Britain Can Make It" in 1946 and the Lefevre Gallery in 1947, as well as being used for the cover of Grace Lovat Fraser’s book Textiles by Britain, 1948. The original sketches for the square date from around 1944. Courtesy of the Fashion and Textile Museum.

After World War II, such well-known artists as John Piper, Salvador Dali and Ben Nicholson had taken up textile design, crafting fabrics that in some cases were turned into commercial clothing. By the 1960s, Pablo Picasso was allowing his paintings to be reproduced on most types of fabric, upholstery excepted. As the curators note, “Picassos may be leaned against, not sat upon.”

Henri Matisse’s first design for Ascher, "Echarpe No. 1," was exhibited at the Lefevre Gallery in 1947. One of the two coral-based designs, it was intended to be produced in a limited edition of 275. Courtesy of the Fashion and Textile Museum.

“This exhibition of rare fashion and furnishing fabrics by artists highlights the quality of textiles as a medium for combining art and mass production,” says Celia Joicey, head of the Fashion and Textile Museum. “With recently discovered works by Dufy, Dali, [Joan] Miro, and Picasso, we hope to shed new light on artistic practice in the mid-20th century.”

"Number, Please?" a silk scarf designed by Salvador Dali for Wesley Simpson circa 1947. The design is derived from a sequence in Destino, Dali’s animation for Disney from 1946. Courtesy of the Fashion and Textile Museum.

The exhibition will be accompanied by the book Artists’ Textiles: 1945-1976 by Geoffrey Rayner, Richard Chamberlain, and Annamarie Stepleton, published by ACC Publishing.

"Ballerina," a screen-printed silk scarf designed by Dali for Wesley Simpson, circa 1947. Courtesy of the Fashion and Textile Museum.

"A Fish is a Fish is a Fish," designed by the painter and designer Ken Scott, was featured in Interiors magazine in September 1951. Shown here is a printed version for dresses and skirts. It was also printed as a furnishing textile by W.B. Quaintence of New York and was marketed in the United Kingdom through Sanderson & Son Ltd. Courtesy of the Fashion and Textile Museum.

William Lamb

@williamlamb

Will Lamb is a writer and editor based in Jersey City, New Jersey. He served as a senior editor at Dwell from 2013 to 2015.

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