Friday - 19 December 2014

Woven together with great skill

08 April 2003Written by ATG Reporter

Artists’ Textiles in Britain 1945-1970: A Democratic Art, by Geoffrey Rayner, Richard Chamberlain and Anne-Marie Stapleton, published by the Antique Collectors’ Club in association with the Fine Arts Society/Target Gallery. ISBN 1851494324 £19.95sb

A DAZZLING retrospective of neglected Fifties textile design masterpieces is on show until April 11 at the Fine Art Society, featuring some of the biggest names in the art world – Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Jean Cocteau, Eduardo Paolozzi and Henry Moore among them, all in a selling exhibition that celebrates the optimistic spirit of post-war Britain and at which prices start at £500. Barbara Hepworth-designed table mats, screen-printed by hand, cost £1850; £4000 will buy you a rare piece by Moore or Paolozzi.

Previewed by my colleague Anne Crane in Antiques Trade Gazette No 1582 (March 29) Decoration and Design page, the exhibition focuses on artist-designed textiles as a post-war art form, which set out to make art democratic and accessible to the public at large.

Modern Britain was to be a brighter and more equal society and artists, as much as any group, were determined to make sure that this happened. For these modern thinkers, painting, sculpture and the applied arts, including book illustration, graphic and textile design, were all-important. Edward Bawden and John Piper are two such creative polymaths whose textiles are included in the show.

The scale of the many patterns is quite unexpected and you have the sense of this in the show’s excellent catalogue published by the Antique Collectors’ Club in association with the Fine Art Society and the Target Gallery, specialists in post-war British design. Co-authored by the show’s curators, this is a catalogue to keep as an important survey of these inspired abstracts that so defined the flavour of the era. It is also one of the best of the ACC productions. The catalogue covers the Ascher project – Czech emigrés Zika and Lida Ascher’s series of “artists’ squares” headscarves introduced in 1946, the important 1953 exhibition Paintings into Textiles organised by the British Trade Export magazine, The Ambassador, when 25 artists were commissioned to produce artworks, while the section on the Sanderson Centenary and the 1960s is a celebration of, among others, the textiles designed by John Piper for Sanderson’s, including the luminous Chiesa della Salute. Includes summaries of the most significant developments and exhibitions since 1945 and 100-plus colour illustrations of designs by leading Modern British artists as well as their brief biographies.

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