Our first instalment of enjoying textiles illustrated by major 20th century artists had to do with unlikely figures–Picasso and Warhol–doing justice to a rather obscure endeavor. (You don’t think of either of those luminaries avoiding the limelight.) In this second survey we’ll look at the output of far less celebrated figures who, one could say, evince a real gusto for unheralded design performance.
As early as 1911, Raoul Dufy established a link to the concerns of fashion designer Paul Poiret and, as such, embarked on parading deco graphic design as something quite distinct from his Fauve and School of Paris headliners. Our first pattern image, “Marronniers,” [Chestnuts], deploys Dufy’s genius for breezy prospects, but here thousand miles from career coups.
Dufy again, playfully surprising us with a nocturnal palette for a tennis display.
What could be more goofy and devil-may care than Coney Island? Saul Steinberg and his fantastic, witty pattern, produced on cotton as a border print for skirts and dresses. The ladies are spectacularly sunburned; the gent is green after not being made as happy as they about the roller coaster ride on which they all came crashing our way!
Marcel Vertes, an all-purpose designer–having produced glorious posters, etchings, illustrated books, on the way to winning Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design for the real Toulouse-Lautrec movie, Moulin Rouge (1952)–took to this textile form of gracious hedonism with remarkable energy and invention. His scarf, titled “Pennies from Heaven” (1946), features that staple of his output, a nubile young woman, seducing us to lighten up, slow down and allow the riches of town and country to work their deep and powerful magic.
A second scarf by Vertes, titled, “Vegetable Patch” (1944), deploying a Surrealist strategy of confluence between the human and the non-human–all serene, in keeping with the easy-going commerce
John Rombola’s “Circus” (1956) wittily gives us hard-boiled carnies taking off toward the heavens!
Steinberg’s “Paddington Station” is another form of soaring delight with outer-space-like vectors on a blank, void, ground; but also with down-to-earth, richly glowing rolling stock. Toss-away profundity in the service of stepping out!