A comprehensive survey of over-200 works on fabric by leading 20th-Century artists including Pablo Picasso Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, Andy Warhol and Barbra Hepworth. In the 1910s, led by painter Wyndham Lewis and the artists of Bloomsbury’s Omega Workshops, artists begun to reconsider the distinction between fine and applied art. Raoul Dufy was the first 20th-century artist to become successfully involved in producing textile designs. After the war the movement to create ‘a masterpiece in every home’ flowered with the involvement of leading contemporary artists: John Piper, Salvador Dalí, Ben Nicholson and Steinberg. Eventually, these art textiles were turned into commercial clothing: a Joan Miró dress, a Salvador Dalí tie. By the 1960s, Picasso was allowing his pictures to be printed on almost any fabric, save upholstery. The sofa was a line he wouldn’t cross, as the curators note: ‘Picassos may be leaned against, not sat on.’
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Artist Textiles tells the story of 20th century art through textiles. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the democratisation of modern art through collaboration between artists and fabric manufacturers. The exhibition opens with a series of diverse and attractive pieces from before WWII, a time in which textile design, like graphic design, became a legitimate way for an artist to diversify their practice.
The ground floor of the main gallery explores British and American fashions in the 1940s and 50s. Highlights include dresses from Horrockses, a dressmaker popularised by Princess Margaret but affordable by all. The Pop Artists were also heavily involved in textile design, as evidenced by beautiful pieces by Independent Group members Edouardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson (and their wives).
Upstairs, the Pop Art theme continues, with a detailed study of textile work by Andy Warhol. Less well-known for his textiles, Picasso produced a collection of furnishing fabrics, also on display. The artist said they could be used for any application except upholstery, as he did not want his work to be sat on. Picasso’s unlikely collaboration with ski-wear brand White Stag is also featured - the ‘Hostess Culottes Dress’ is a particular treat.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Zandra Rhodes also has a section in the exhibition. But then, she did build the museum, so perhaps that’s only fair. Over all, Artist Textiles affords the viewer a fascinating view of 20th century art in a non-fine art medium. If nothing else, there are some fabulous frocks.
For more art in plain English, check out http://www.curatedlondon.co.uk