Archive for October, 2009

Gunta Stölzl, Master Weaver of the Bauhaus

Posted in Christine Cariati, Female Artists, Fiber Arts, Fine & Decorative Arts, Rugs, Textiles, XC with tags , , , , , , , on October 31, 2009 by Christine Cariati

by Christine Cariati

Gunta Stolzl,Slit Tapestry Red/Green

Gunta Stölzl, Slit Tapestry Red/Green, 1927/28
Cotton, silk, linen 150 x 110cm

Gunta Stölzl, an innovative and influential textile designer, began as a student at the Bauhaus in 1919 and was named the only female Bauhaus Master in 1927—by which time she had made the Weaving Workshop the most profitable workshop at the Bauhaus.

In a letter to the Museum of Modern Art when they acquired her piece Wandbehang Schwarz-Weiss, Stölzl wrote:

The Bauhaus period was, for all of us, like a chamber of unalienable pleasures.

Gunta StolzlGunta Stölzl

Born in Munich in 1897, Stölzl studied painting, ceramics and art history at the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts & Crafts) in Munich from 1913-16. After serving as a Red Cross nurse from 1917-18 during World War I, Stölzl became aware of the Bauhaus, which was founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919. Like many of the female students, Stölzl was an accomplished visual artist attracted to the Bauhaus by the presence of painters Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Johannes Itten, Josef Albers, Lyonel Feininger and others.

Kandinsky, Composition IVWassily Kandinsky, Composition IV, 1919
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf

In the spring of 1920, Stölzl was accepted on a trial basis to the Bauhaus and enrolled in Johannes Itten’s Vorkurs (preliminary course).

Johannes IttenJohannes Itten, The Elements of Color

By the fall of that year she was awarded a full scholarship. Walter Gropius assigned painters to lead the workshops instead of craftsmen, which was in line with his ideas about elevating craft to the level of fine art, an approach that was very effective in attracting visually sophisticated students. The fundamental approach of the Bauhaus was to see things with fresh eyes, to discard old notions. Paul Klee called this approach “visual thinking.”

Paul KleePaul Klee, Ancient Sound, Abstract on Black, 1925
Oil on cardboard, 15″ x 15″
Kunstsammlung, Basel

This approach also contributed to a lot of collaboration and cross-pollination of visual ideas.

Stolzl Breuer ChairGunta Stölzl and Marcel Breuer, African Chair, 1921

Stolzl, 5ChoreGunta Stölzl, 5 Chöre (5 Choirs), 1928
Jacquard wall hanging Cotton, wool, rayon and silk
229 x 143 cm
Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Lübeck

Klee, PastoralPaul Klee, Pastoral, 1927
Tempera on canvas, mounted on wood, 69.3 x 52.4 cm
Museum of Modern Art, NY.

Gropius had founded the Bauhaus on the principle of Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art), where design, visual aesthetics and mastery of technique would come together. The admission policy espoused gender equality, but the reality was very different. Gropius was taken aback by how many women applied to the Bauhaus and quickly established a “Women’s Department” to channel the female students into the Weaving, Bookbinding and Pottery Workshops—and, with few exceptions, such as Florence Henri, this was what transpired. As it turned out, Gerhard Marcks, the head of the Pottery Workshop, did not want women in his department and the Bookbinding Workshop shut down in 1922. The result was that  the Weaving Workshop soon remained the sole option for many female Bauhaus students, who only had access to painting classes via the Weaving Workshop.

Anni AlbersAnni Albers, Wall hanging, triple-weave, 1926

When Gunta Stölzl joined the Weaving Workshop, it was languishing under the leadership of Georg Muche, the master of the Weaving Workshop from 1921-27, and Helene Börner—neither of whom had the skills to help the students advance their technique. Börner, who provided all the looms and equipment for the Weaving Workshop, had been trained as a Handarbeitslehrerin (home economics teacher) which garnered her little respect among the students. Stölzl soon took over the technical direction of the workshop. She was a person of tremendous enthusiasm and energy and she quickly understood the equipment and grasped the possibilities of weaving. She had an instinctive feel for the process, was passionate about experimenting with new materials and constantly explored new ideas in color and design and their applications for industrial design. In 1922 Stölzl studied dyeing techniques in Krefeld with fellow Bauhaus weaver Benita Otte and on their return established a dye facility at the Bauhaus. One of Stölzl’s students, Anni Albers, often said that Stölzl was an excellent teacher, “having almost an animal feeling for textiles.” Stölzl was appointed craft master of the Weaving Workshop in Dessau in 1925.

Benita OtteBenita Otte, Color studies, c.1925

Benita OtteBenita Otte,Wall hanging, 1923
Shown in Bauhaus Exhibition, Haus am Horn

In spite of the limitations placed on female students at the Bauhaus, many flourished there, particularly in the Weaving Workshop. At that time, women were often barred from traditional art academies, and, adapted to low expectations, found the Bauhaus relatively inclusive and the atmosphere exciting and inspiring. Stölzl, who was always pleased to talk about her days at the Bauhaus, later wrote about that time:

I believe that the most important of all was life itself. It was brimful with impressions, experiences, encounters and friendships which have lasted over decades.

Bauhaus LoomsWeaving Workshop at the Bauhaus, Weimar

Stölzl was inspired by Paul Klee’s passion for color and form and Kandinsky’s ideas about abstraction.  Kandinsky wrote in Concerning the Spiritual in Art:

The more abstract is form, the more clear and direct its appeal…The more an artist uses these abstracted forms, the deeper and more confidently will he advance into the kingdom of the abstract.

Exploring these principles, Stölzl guided the Weaving Workshop from personal, pictorial and decorative tapestry weaving to the production of innovative, abstract and geometric textiles for domestic and industrial use. In accordance with Bauhaus philosophy, textiles as art or a means of personal expression was discouraged, utility and simplicity were valued. Stölzl’s creative energies were devoted to developing new weave structures, the innovative use of synthetic fibers and exploring new dyeing techniques.

Gunta StolzlGunta Stölzl, Design for rug, 1926
Gouache on paper

In The Development of the Bauhaus Weaving Workshop, 1931, Stölzl said this about the Weimar years:

Gradually a change took place. We began to sense how pretentious these independent, unique pieces were: tablecloths, curtains, wall coverings. The richness of colour and form became too licentious for us; it did not adapt itself, it did not subordinate itself to living. We tried to become more simple, to discipline our means, to use these in a more straightforward and functional way. Thus we came to yard goods which could directly serve the room, the living problem. The watchword of the new epoch was models for industry.

Gunta StolzlGunta Stölzl, Upholstery fabric, c. 1925-30

For political reasons, Stölzl resigned from the Bauhaus in 1931 and moved to Switzerland where she founded a hand-weaving workshop in Zürich which she ran in one form or another until 1967.  At that time Stölzl disbanded the workshop, resumed tapestry weaving and pursued her own work until her death in 1983. Unfortunately many of the pieces she produced during the Bauhaus period are lost, but enough remain to assure her legacy. In 1976 she was given a solo show at the Bauhaus-Archive in Berlin and her work has been included in many retrospective shows about the Bauhaus.The Museum of Modern Art in New York mounted the exhibition, Gunta Stölzl and Anni Albers, in 1990. The curator of the exhibition,  Matilda McQuaid wrote:

The textile designs of Gunta Stölzl and Anni Albers are creative experiments in material, structure and color. Rejecting a nineteenth-century tradition of cloth-making that emphasized pictorial imagery, Stölzl and Albers altered the course of twentieth-century weaving by introducing new fibers and finishes and by revealing the fundamental woven structure, or the warp and weft, of the cloth.

A book about Stölzl’s life and work, with text and forward by her daughter, Monika Stadler, Gunta Stölzl: Bauhaus Master, has recently been published by The Museum of Modern Art. Also recommended reading: Women’s Work: Textile Art from the Bauhaus by Sigrid Wortmann Weltge.
Stölzl’s work can be seen in the upcoming exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity, November 8, 2009-January 25, 2010. An accompanying monograph, Bauhaus Women: Art, Handicraft, Design by Ulrike Miller, will be available in November 2009.

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Alma Thomas: On the Shoulders of Giants

Posted in Female Artists, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Painting, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2009 by Liz Hager

Editor’s Note: Over the past several weeks our contributors have been on hiatus, in order to participate in SF Open Studios event. With this piece Venetian Red resumes its regular posting schedule.

By LIZ HAGER

Alma Thomas, Red Azaleas Singing and Dancing Rock and Roll Music, 1976,
acrylic on canvas, 72 1/4 x 135 1/2″.
(The Smithsonian American Art Museum)

In 1924, Alma Thomas (1891-1978) became the first woman to graduate from Howard University’s newly-created fine arts department. Quite possibly, she was the first African-American to hold this kind of degree. She went on to become the first women to receive a Masters’ degree (teaching) from Columbia University. For 35 years, Thomas dedicated herself to teaching art to high school students. She retired in 1960, in order to focus on her own work. In her 70s, plagued by arthritis and degenerating eyesight, she threw herself into her work. In 1972, at age 80, she became the first African-American woman to have a solo show mounted by the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Two weeks ago, Alma Thomas made news yet again.

Alma Thomas—Blue Abstraction 1961Alma Thomas, Blue Abstraction, c.1961
oil on canvas, 34 x 40″.
(Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

Although the list of artworks the Obamas have requisitioned for the White House collection was released months ago, it wasn’t until a recent  New York Times’ article—“White House Art”—that members of the conservative blogosphere found another excuse to blast the Obama administration. Indignant, they locked their rifle scopes on one painting in particular, Alma Thomas’ Watusi (Hard Edge).  Free Republic and Michelle Malkin posted particularly exemplary pieces, decrying the work as an “almost exact replication” of Henri Matisse’s (1869-1954) The Snail. All Thomas had done, they argued, was to rotate Matisse’s canvas clockwise 90° and change some colors. “An embarrassment for the ‘sophisticates’ who failed to spot a copy hiding in plain sight,” one blogger hissed.

Henri Matisse, The Snail, 1953
gouache on paper, cut and pasted on paper mounted on canvas, approximately 113″ square.
(Tate Gallery)

Alma Thomas, Watusi (Hard Edge), 1963
acrylic on canvas, 47 5/8 x 44 1/4″.
(Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden)

The outcry was predictably bereft of thoughtful analysis. In the aggregate, the derisive comments—”my two year old could have done that” and “the crap that passes for art”— not to mention downright ugly sneers—”The original itself is a hoax. Most modern art is.”—might otherwise be a sobering reminder that a vocal segment of the population appears truly threatened by modern art. Predictably, though, the commentators revealed themselves to be neither knowledgeable nor interested in the subject of modern art. No, it was pretty clear from the particulars (including some nasty, racially-oriented snips) that Thomas and, by extension modern art, was merely the scapegoat here; Watusi was the vehicle through which the conservative fringe could ridicule, yet again, the President’s alleged lack of judgment. One self-appoint -ed cognoscente snickered: “He can’t even pick real art.”

Jean Arp, Untitled (Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance), 1916-1917
torn-and-pasted paper and colored paper on colored paper, 19 1/8 x 13 5/8″.
(Museum of Modern Art; © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn)

Did Alma Thomas copy Matisse? When it comes to intellectual property, despite  legal guidelines, copying is often harder to prove than it would seem.

Alma Thomas, Early Cherry Blossoms, 1973,
acrylic on canvas, 69 x 50″.
(Michael Rosenfeld Gallery)

On the one hand, as any trained artist knows, examining the world through the eyes of others is a necessary step on the road to developing a “mature” personal style. Indeed, all of human progress has been built on the shoulders of previous giants. Matisse’s cutouts could not have existed without the work of the collagists who preceded him—Jean Arp,  Kurt Schwitters, Hannah Höch—who in turn owed debts to earlier Cubists, Picasso and Braque. And on it goes.

Henri Matisse, Snow Flowers,1951,
watercolor and gouache on cut and pasted papers, 75 11/16  x  35 7/8″.
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)

On the other hand, illegitimate copying is real. Both Richard Prince (See VR’s “Prince of Pilfer”) and Jeff Koons have  been sued by photographers for incorporating copyrighted work into their own. Koons lost the Rogers v. Koons case, but won a more recent suit under the “fair use” doctrine.  Readers will remember that earlier this year Damien Hirst threatened to sue a 16-year-old over his use of an image of Hirst’s diamond-incrusted skull, in the process demanding royalties.

Alma Thomas at work in her studio, 1970s?

In the imaginary case of Matisse v. Thomas, interpretations of the “substantially similar” clause suggest many ambiguities that would present a challenge to definitively proving copyright infringement. (Imagined cries of “I know copying when I see it!” from Thomas bashers aside.) Thomas always credited Matisse for the inspiration that produced Watusi. It is obvious that the work launched her on a journey of artistic discovery that produced her unique and forward-looking (if not radical) mosaic style.

To assert that Thomas was “simply copying” Matisse would be to deny the rich and varied underpinnings of her work.  Thomas was deeply impressed by the colors and patterns of the natural world around her.  “Light reveals to us the spirit and living soul of the world through colors,” she once said.

Lois Mailou Jones, Les Fetiches, 1938
oil on linen, approximately 21 x 25″.
(The Smithsonian American Art Museum)

At her best, Thomas adeptly fused her own interpretation of the modernist approaches to color with the craft traditions (textile-based in Thomas’ case) of black America to arrive at a style that, while abstract, never quite looses its connection with natural form.  In addition to Matisse, Thomas identified with the work of Cézanne, as well as her teachers Jacob KainenRobert Gates, Joe Summerford, and Lois Mailou Jones.

Alma Thomas, Oriental Garden Concerto, 1976
acrylic on canvas, 68 1/4 X 54 1/4″.
(Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden)

If there was any real “crime” committed by the Obamas in the selection of their White House collection, it was that only 6 (!) of the 45 pieces were by women. (Louise Nevelson and Susan Rothenberg also included.)  Worse perhaps, no Latinos/as were represented at all.  Not exactly  “Change We Can Believe In.”

Alma Thomas, White Roses Sing and Sing, 1976
acrylic on canvas, 72 1/2 x 52 3/8″.
(Smithsonian American Art Museum)

The Hullaballoo

Michelle Malkin—Do the Watusi: Art, Imitation, and the Obamas

greg.org—“On Wingnuts on Alma Thomas”

Steven Kaplan—“Watusi vs. L’Escargot: Another Desperate Republican Attempt to Smear Obama”

The Mississippifarian—“It’s Called ‘Having a Clue.’ “

Wider Connections

Holland Cotter—“Colors From a World of Black and White”

Self-taught sculptor William Edmondson was the first African-American to have a solo show in a major US museum. See “Doin’ the Lord’s Work.”

John Elderfield—The Cutouts of Henri Matisse

Merry Foresta—Alma Thomas: A Life in Art

News Grist: Audio Symposium—A Search for Comity in the Intellectual Property Wars

US Copyright Office

Dark Day Picks: SF Open Studios Weekend 4

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Ceramics, Female Artists, Liz Hager, Painting, Sculpture with tags , on October 26, 2009 by Liz Hager

Over the four weekends in October we’re highlighting San Francisco Open Studios, the largest program of its kind in the country. Artists invite viewers into their studios to see the work outside of the gallery system. SF Open Studios takes place during successive weekends in October, different neighborhoods on different weekends.

Weekend 4: October 31 & November 1
Neighborhood: Hunter’s Point Shipyard

Paula Clark—Anti-physics
Paula Clark, Bldg. 101, #1312

Susan Friedman, Bldg. 101, #1517

Dolores R Gray—I Wanted to Dance with Josephine

Dolores R. Gray, Bldg. 101, #1302

Julie Nelson, Bldg. 116, Studio A

Sawyer Rose, Bldg. 110, #205

Jane Woolverton, Bldg. 101, #1408

Maggie Malloy—Origins and Tools

Maggie Malloy, Bldg. 116, #7


Dark Day Picks: SF Open Studios Weekend 3

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Female Artists, Fiber Arts, Glass, Liz Hager with tags , on October 19, 2009 by Liz Hager

Over the four weekends in October  we’re highlighting San Francisco Open Studios, the largest program of its kind in the country. Artists invite viewers into their studios to see the work outside of the gallery system.

Weekend 3: October 24 & 25
Neighborhoods: Financial District, North Beach, Potrero Hill, Russian Hill,SOMA, Tenderloin, Bayview, Excelsior

Jonah Ward—340 Bryant Street.

Deborah Howard-Page— 547 Arkansas Street (at 20th).

Mark Faigenbaum—611 Texas Street (at 22nd).

David Patchen—1750 Armstrong Avenue at 3rd Street.

Ed Calhoun—2325—3rd Street, #345

Wider Connections

Artspan

Dark Day Picks: SF Open Studios Weekend 2

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Female Artists, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Mixed Media, Painting, Photography with tags , , , , , , on October 12, 2009 by Liz Hager

Over the four weekends in October  we’re highlighting San Francisco Open Studios, the largest program of its kind in the country. Artists invite viewers into their studios to see the work outside of the gallery system.

Weekend 2: October 17 & 18
Neighborhoods: Buena Vista, Diamond Heights, Fort Mason, Haight, Hayes Valley, Marina, Mount Davidson, Pacific Heights, Richmond, Sunset, Ocean Beach, Twin Peaks, West Portal

Christine Cariati—Atelier 781, 781 Sixth Avenue

Tashkent paradise

Liz Hager—Atelier 781, 781 Sixth Avenue

Mary Daniel Hobson—3069 Washington Street at Baker Street

Barbara Kleinhans—1240 Hayes Street, #6

Marilynne Morshead

Marilynne Morshead—Fort Mason, Bldg. D, Fleet Room #100

Wider Connections

Art Span

“The Remains of the Day”: Ismail Merchant’s Collection

Posted in Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Painting, Textiles with tags , , , , on October 9, 2009 by Liz Hager

By LIZ HAGER

Kishingar School, A Lady Entertaining Two Nobles, ca. 1800-1820
gouache (?) heightened with gold and silver on paper , 9 5/8 x 7½ in.
Price realized: $6,939.
(All photos courtesy Christie’s)

Born in Mumbai in 1936, Ismail Merchant was one half of the longest running partnership (both business and romantic) in independent film history. Established in 1961, the collaboration that was Merchant Ivory lasted over 40 years and produced scores of films.

Suzani, Shakrhrizabz Region (Uzbekistan), 68 x 96 in., mid-19th c.
Price realized: $16,851.

South Indian printed Palampore, 127 1/4 in. x 87 1/4 in
Price realized: $31,721.

The pair was best known for their rich and faithful film adaptations of literary works both past and contemporary—James’ The Europeans and The Bostonians; E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End; Diane Johnston’s Le Divorce; Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s (their writing partner) Heat and Dust; and of course Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day with its all-star cast. In this world, Ismail Merchant’s particular talent was his ability to produce lush-looking period pieces on distincly non-Hollywood budgets.

Amli Shawl of Red Pashmina, Kashmir, mid-19th century.
Price realized: $1,983.

Merchant’s other passion was expressed in obsessive collecting. His film production work him unique access to galleries and dealers around the world and he took full advantage of the privilege, amassing a large collection of Indian textiles (some Central Asian) and miniatures, as well as European furniture, Indian silver, and European paintings of India.  His two worlds were seamless—often pieces from his collection showed up on the sets of his movies.

Ivory Silk Tent Panel (Kanat), India (probably Gujurat), late 18th c.
Price realized: $5,155.

James Ivory held onto the collection after Merchant’s death in 2005, as some of the pieces had sentimental value. But many did not, and he finally commissioned Christie’s to auction off 300 pieces. The results of the auction, held this past Wednesday, were exceptional, fetching over £6 million.

A Fraser Album Artist, Elephant and Driver, 1815-1819, pencil & watercolor.
Price Realized: $55,722.

Wider Connections

Christie’s: The Ismail Merchant Collection
Merchant Ivory Productions

A Different Canvas: Raoul Dufy

Posted in Liz Hager, Painting, Textiles with tags , , , on October 7, 2009 by Liz Hager

By LIZ HAGER
© Liz Hager, 2009. All Rights Reserved

This is the second installment in a series of posts, in which Venetian Red explores aspects of artist-designed textiles.  For all posts in the series, click here.

Raoul Dufy—Jungle, 1922Raoul Dufy, Jungle, printed cotton, 1922.

A versatile painter, Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) was equally at home in the disciplines of fine and applied arts. In addition to several thousand paintings and drawings, he left behind illustrations for about 50 literary works, more than four dozen tapestries, 200 ceramic pieces, and nearly 5,000 fabric designs.

Raoul Dufy, Vieilles maisons sur le bassin de Honfleur, 1906,
oil on canvas.

As an ardent disciple of Matisse, Duffy’s witty and joyous paintings of southern France, with their vibrant colors, calligraphic lines, and sparse modeling, are a testament to the zeal with which the painter remade himself from an Impressionist into a Fauve.

Raoul Dufy—Mme Dufy, 1930Raoul Dufy, Madame Dufy, 1930,
oil on canvas
(Musée Masséna, Nice).

Dufy certainly shared his mentor’s pre-occupation with the decorative. Ornamental elements show up in his earlier paintings. But Dufy’s textile designs are where he manipulates the decorative into sensuous and ecstatic works.

In fact, Dufy’s work in textile design, first with fashion designer Paul Poiret and later with the Lyons-based silk manufacturer Bianchini-Ferier, directly informed his fine art style. The flat decorative pattern of colors he employed in textile designs made their way back into his paintings; by the late 20s all of his paintings fully embrace ornament.

Raoul Dufy—croquis 1920Raoul Dufy, Croquis de Modes No. 1, 1920
(Courtesy HP Prints)

The collaborations with Poiret began in 1910. Though he had participated five years earlier in the prestigious exhibitions of the time (Les Salons d’Automne and Indépendents), Dufy found himself facing sobering financial circumstances. It must have seemed like a godsend, when Poiret, on the basis of the artist’s experiments in woodcuts, commissioned him to design fabrics.

Raoul Dufy, La Fôret, ca. 1911 printed cotton
(Courtesy FDIM Museum, Los Angeles).

Then at the peak of his influence, Poiret was known simply as Le Magnifique, a reference to Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, who had led Ottoman Empire to its most expansive and powerful. Working with fabric directly on the body, Poiret pioneered a radical approach to dressmaking that relied on the skills of draping rather than tailoring and pattern making. Looking to antique and regional dress, in particular “oriental” styles, Poiret advocated clothing cut along straight lines and constructed of rectangles. More practically, Poiret’s trailblazing notions about fashion liberated women from the Edwardian corset.

Raoul Dufy, Design for Paul Poiret, ca. 1917 (Miriam Shiell Fine Art).

Poiret saw no distinction between the fine and applied arts; he saw art and fashion as indivisible. Poiret  promoted his fashions as unique and original works of art in and of themselves. The collaboration with Dufy produced such signature creations as “La Perse” coat, “La Rose d’Iribe” day dress, and the “Bois de Boulogne” dinner dress (which is made from a fabric that Dufy designed in conjunction with Bianchini-Férier). They demonstrate how Dufy’s flat, graphic patterns were ideally suited to Poiret’s designs.

Paul Poiret, “La Perse” with fabric designed by Raoul Dufy, 1911
(Metropolitan Museum of Art).

It was a short-lived but fruitful collaboration. Failing to imitate Dufy’s bold wood-blocked patterns, in 1912 Charles Bianchini made Dufy an offer too good to refuse, and Dufy left his partnership with Poiret to sign on to an exclusive contract with the Lyonaise firm.  This incredibly productive relationship lasted until the late 1920s and produced thousands of designs.

Raoul Dufy (attributed)—Roses, 1925

Attributed to Raoul Dufy, Roses, printed cotton, 1929.

Though many of the artist’s designs were monochromatic, mimicking style of thick lined woodcuts, Dufy also utilized the sumptuous palette of the Fauves to great success. He returned to certain themes again and again—florals and exotic animals (the leopard and elephant for example) were particular favorites. Dufy was a master at designing geometric patterns using blocks of opposing colors—the design created equally by the object and by the negative space enclosing it.

Raoul Dufy—Les Tuileries, 1920-21

Raoul Dufy, Les Tuilleries, woven textile design, 1920-21.

Dufy’s artistic legacy languished for a number decades after his death in 1953. Critics considered his work trivial. Perhaps they could not reconcile the Fine Art /Applied Art dichotomy in his work or maybe they just didn’t know what to do with an artist who so resolutely celebrated life. Nevertheless, it seems certain now that Dufy’s greatest artistic achievement was his ability, irrespective of the canvas, to evoke joy. Once when asked about the role of art in life, he responded: “To render beauty accessible to all, by putting order into things and thought.”

In the process of working both sides of the art street, so to speak, Raoul Dufy helped to change the face of fashion and fabric design. He was nearly single-handedly responsible for the formulation of practically all modern fabric design between 1909 and 1930, and his style radically influenced the popular arts and the commercial design of the Western world.

Raoul Dufy—Interior with A Hindu Girl, 1930, Royal Museum Copenhagen

Raoul Dufy, Interior with a Hindu Girl, 1930
oil on canvas, approx. 32 x 40″
(National Gallery of Denmark).

Even today, Dufy’s vision informs the color, design, texture, and imagery of a wide range of products in our contemporary world.

The Rabbit Hole

More Dufy

Poiret: King of Fashion exhibit

The New Yorker—Judith Thurman “Cut Loose: Paul Poiret’s Revolution

Dufy, Le Bestiaire (collaboration with Guillaume Apollinaire)

Voguepedia: Paul Poiret

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