Artist Textiles, Picasso to Warhol (by Margaret Cooter)

In London until 17 May is an exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum of about 200 textiles designed by artists, including some of the big names – not just Pablo and Andy, but Saul Steinberg, Sonia Delaunay, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró and Ben Nicholson.

The show has  examples of Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, Abstraction, Surrealism and Pop Art. Nor are the companies that produced the fabrics absent – Ascher scarves (including a 1947 design by Matisse); the New York based company Wesley Simpson Custom Fabrics (with scarf designs by Salvador Dali and Manuel Vertes); and Fuller Fabric – their’Modern Master Prints’ series pulled the coup of getting Picasso’s designs.

The museum allowed photography, and you’ll be able to find many pix from the show on the web (some links are at the end of this post).

Furnishing fabric design by Bernard Adeney (head of textiles at Central School, 1930-1947)

Calculations by Picasso – his fabrics could be worn as clothing, but weren’t made in upholstery weight

“Flight” by Irish-born designer Louis Le Brocquy (1916-2012) (see another colourway here)
A border print by Saul Steinberg
Another Picasso print
John Piper had a finger in many artistic pies and in the 50s and 60s produced textile designs, often of buildings and landscapes.
“Desert Rocks” (1947) is by Salvador Dali (two scarves by Dali are shown here)
Marcel Vertes' Radishes, 1945. Vertes was a prolific designer for the Wesley Simpson compnay

Marcel Vertes’ Radishes, c.1945. Vertes was a prolific designer for the Wesley Simpson company













Andy Warhol's Buttons

Andy Warhol’s Buttons












Charlie Chaplin fabric, c1927

Charlie Chaplin fabric, c1927













The Horrockses dresses, much sought after in the 1950s (and a hot vintage item now), still seem “so English” to me, even after living in the UK for several decades. The photo (from here)


shows textiles designed by Graham Sutherland, c.1949 (left) and by Eduardo Paolozzi, 1953.


To see more artist textiles in the show, you could start with these links –


5 Responses to “Artist Textiles, Picasso to Warhol (by Margaret Cooter)”

  1. 1 kathleenloomis April 6, 2014 at 9:56 am

    I wonder what Picasso and Matisse thought about having their designs on yardage. Did they actually sit down and create something new for these commissions, or did they root around and find some sheets of doodles by the telephone and say “you can make these up”? Or did their business managers root around and find some doodles and say “sign here, it’s easy money”? Did they regard fabric design as a valid form of art, or a joke, or something tacky done for the money, or as a joke done for the money?

    (I suspect the business manager for the Dali fabrics, as his entourage did a lot of shady business under the master’s signature after Dali got too old to know what was going on.)

    I know Warhol must have laughed all the way to the bank, since he thought making money was an art form in itself.

    • 2 olganorris April 7, 2014 at 4:40 am

      I don’t know about Picasso and Matisse in particular, but I do know that quite a few artists (such as Dufy, Graham Sutherland, and John Piper) did design patterns particularly for making into scarves, or into yardage. I suppose that they thought that it might be a fun challenge, as they were not always paid much, if at all. Sometimes it was a kind of publicity for their work, rather like the artist’s books they (including Picasso and Matisse) did for their agents.

  2. 3 olganorris March 31, 2014 at 2:37 am

    It looks like quite an exhibition! A friend went to see it and was bowled over. When artists otherwise known for their paintings etc. make fabric designs I think of it as yet another medium like film-making or sculpture. Each medium has its challenges – and in this case amongst those challenges is to capture something ‘of the moment’. The design might well be timeless too – that is the sign of a good textile designer, whether or not they are an artist in the ‘fine’ sense of the word.

  3. 4 june March 30, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Aargh, today the universe of the internet is against me. I wanted to respond to Sandy’s post in the above comment. Sorry Margaret. I’m blaming this on WordPress, although it could be that my brain has just compressed into a single synapse.

  4. 5 june March 30, 2014 at 11:53 am

    It’s interesting that both Frankenthaler and O’Keefe have been accused of making art that was “merely” beautiful, or too nice, or some such. I find these critical remarks verge on or come out of sexism, although of course there’s no way to prove that bias. IMHO, most of Abstract Expressionism is “beautiful” as well as striking, and, as Kathleen said, Frankenthaler took up abstract expressionism with gusto. She was doing amazing things with prints well into her 80s — an astonishing artist.

    By the way, Sandy, you cleared up a mystery for me: I always wondered how she got the “soak style” paintings to move down the canvas as she did. I never could do that with primed canvases, although with dye and to some extent with acrylic I could make it happen. But knowing she didn’t prime the canvas tells me how it worked. And how it damaged the fabric over the long run. Sigh.

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