Mystery Monday: Roger Fry and the Omega Workshops

Yes, this textile was designed by Roger Fry (1866 – 1934), a co-founder of the Omega Workshops.

Fry, Roger. Amenophis, 1913. Stencil-printed linen. Accession number CIRC.424-1966 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Fry, Roger. Amenophis, 1913. Stencil-printed linen, 71 x 79.5 cm. Accession number CIRC.424-1966 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Founded by Roger Fry, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell in 1913, the Omega Workshops became the first English organization to fully embrace Post-Impressionism. Though short-lived, the Omega Workshops were the English answer to Paul Poiret’s École Martine and the artistic complement to the well-known literary group in Bloomsbury. This group of artists grew to include Frederick Etchells, Wyndham Lewis, Paul Nash, David Bomberg, William Roberts, Mark Gertler, and others, all of whom found inspiration in the works of Cézanne, Picasso, and Braque.

Roger Fry did not care for Art Nouveau; he did not care for William Morris and his tenets, and he did not care for what he classified as “Northern Art”, or art that is easily confined within the perimeters of a canvas or a page of book. In creating the Omega Workshops, Fry’s goal was to establish an organization that provided an income and an outlet for English artists who ascribed to the Post-Impressionist aesthetic but not to socialistic ideals. If Impressionists merely explained the world, Post-Impressionists sought to change it, and Fry hoped that the Omega Workshops would support innovative English artists who, like him, found inspiration in the structure of primitive art and the urgency of brash colors. Under Fry’s direction, the products of the Omega would emphasize “the use of bold and brutal colour, the acceptance of pictorial conversations continued from the canvas around the room” (1). Around the room, on screens and table and chairs, and printed on brightly colored textiles – the canvas was the room, the home, and the hostess. The Omega Workshops would create four-dimensional works of art.

On May 14, 1913, the Omega Workshops were officially established at 33 Fitzroy Square in London near Tottenham Court Road. Over the next two months, the artists work tirelessly to create screens, rugs, ceramics, furniture, and textiles in time for the Omega’s opening on July 8.

Fry, Roger. Margery, 1913. Block printed linen furnishing fabric. Accession number T.386-1913 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Fry, Roger. Margery, 1913. Block printed linen, 79 x 79 cm. Accession number T.386-1913 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In April 1913, Fry, Bell and Grant successfully finalized initial designs for Omega printed linens. Like those of École Martine, the textiles of the Omega Workshops possessed a simplicity and an authenticity. They were immediate and uninhibited, a purified expression of emotion composed of formal repetition and dramatic color choices. According to the Victoria and Albert Museum, “Fry believed that designs should not be too mechanical and should show evidence of the artist’s hand. The workshops produced six printed linens which were used by the most daring clients as dress fabrics.” As a fashionable woman and an artist, it was Bell who first saw the opportunity to use Omega linens as both interior and fashion fabrics.

Fry, Roger. Poster, 1918. Lithograph. Accession number E.738-1955 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Fry, Roger. Poster, 1918. Lithograph. Accession number E.738-1955 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In May 1915, mere days after the creation of the Omega, Vanessa Bell expressed interest in establishing a dressmaking initiative. Inspired by her recent trips to Paris and Turkey, Bell designed a series of hobble skirts, tunics, and robes in brightly colored fabrics that matched the colors Bell used frequently on her canvases. Though her designs were similar to Poiret’s popular and dramatic creations, her efforts received mixed reviews. One critic, Bell’s sister Virgina Woolf, wrote of a particular outfit: “What colours you are responsible for! Karin [Stephens]’s clothes almost wrenched my eyes from the sockets – a skirt barred with reds and yellow of the vilest kind, an a pea green blouse on top, with a gaudy handkerchief on her head, supposed to be the very boldest taste” (2). Despite her strong reaction to one of her sister’s designs, Woolf remained a patron of the Omega and the unique clothing that Bell so passionately produced.

Bell, Vanessa. White, 1913. Printed linen. Accession number T.242-1931 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Bell, Vanessa. White, 1913. Printed linen, 85 x 79.5 cm. Accession number T.242-1931 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Bell, Vanessa. Pamela, 1913. Printed linen, 40.5 x 19.7 cm. Accession number T.238-1931 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Bell, Vanessa. Pamela, 1913. Printed linen, 40.5 x 19.7 cm. Accession number T.238-1931 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Until 1917, Vanessa Bell managed all dressmaking and fashion accessories activities, and some cite the moderate success of the Omega to Bell’s clever and enthusiastic marketing. By 1916, select patrons had repeatedly returned to purchase the Omega’s imaginative hats and clothing, but the Workshops’ dramatic designs and prints had continually failed to resonate with a wider audience. Despite Bell’s efforts, she could not establish a strong public demand for the Omega’s fashions, through they remained a staple of those familiar with the Bloomsbury group. After a period of decline, the Omega workshops closed by summer 1919.

Gill, Winifred. Two sketches of a sleeveless tunic or waistcoat made out of Omega printed linen. Pen on letter paper, 180 x 90 mm. The Bodleian Library, Oxford. Found in Source 3.

Gill, Winifred. Two sketches of a sleeveless tunic or waistcoat made of Omega printed linen. Pen on letter paper, 180 x 90 mm. The Bodleian Library, Oxford. Found in Source 3.

Like all of the Omega’s designs, this tunic designed by Winifred Gill is both functional and expressive, a fusion of art and fashion. Other designs commissioned by friends of the Omega include kimono-style cloaks, colorful silk stoles, waistcoats, and color-blocked swim suits.

Nina Hamnett and Winifred Gill, photographed in The Illustrated London Herald, October 24, 1915. The British Library. Found in Source 3.

Nina Hamnett and Winifred Gill, photographed in The Illustrated London Herald, October 24, 1915. The British Library. Found in Source 3.

In this press photograph, “Hamnett wears a cloak, which combines the fashionable shape of the kimono with a bold hand-painted design of abstracted sunflowers. Gill wears a waistcoat, also with sunflowers, over a printed blouse and a striped skirt” (3).

Fry, Roger. Cracow, 1913. Jacquard-woven and block-printed wool and linen. Accession number CIRC.1-1963 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Omega Workshops. Cracow, 1913. Jacquard-woven and block-printed wool and linen waistcoat, 46 x 46 x 6 cm. Accession number CIRC.1-1963 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

This waistcoat, possibly designed by Joy Brown out of “Cracow” furnishing fabric, is a rare extant example of the clothing designed by the Omega Workshops.

Fry, Roger. Still Life with T'ang Horse, 1919-21. Oil paint on canvas, 356 x 457 mm. Accession number T01780 at the Tate Britain.

Fry, Roger. Still Life with T’ang Horse, 1919-21. Oil paint on canvas, 356 x 457 mm. Accession number T01780 at the Tate Britain.

After the Omega’s closure, Roger Fry and other Omega artists continued their creative pursuits. In some artworks produced after 1919, like Fry’s Still Life with a T’ang Horse, elements of supposed nostalgia appear within the paint strokes. According to the Tate, the black vase, the paper flower, and the panel of handpainted paper were all made at the Omega Workshops.

Footnotes:
1. Collins, Judith. The Omega Workshops (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 1.
2. Sheehan, Elizabeth. “Dressmaking at the Omega: Experiments in Art and Fashion”  in Beyond Bloomsbury: Designs of the Omega Workshops 1913 – 1919. ed. Alexandra Gerstein (London: Fontanka, c2009), 54.
3. Ibid, 56.

 

Additional Resources:
Anscombe, Isabelle. Omega and After: Bloomsbury and the Decorative Arts. London: Thames & Hudson, c1981.
Collins, Judith. The Omega Workshops, 1913 – 19: Decorative Arts of Bloombury: Craft Council Gallery, 18 January – 18 March 1984: a Craft Council Exhbition. London: The Council, c1983.
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Mystery Monday

The winds buffet red sails as the sun sinks lower in the sky, almost suspended at the horizon above a purple sea, with white foam crowning the waves that reach towards the rocks and stretches of white sand. The scene is a memory, a jumbled mass of light, shapes, and color. Were the sails white? Were the buoys red?

Or is this design based on something else entirely, perhaps a street scene or a favorite song?

This textile, a perfect example of abstraction, bears an equally obscure title. A product of the 20th century, it shares its name with a pharaoh who ruled during the 18th Dynasty. Perhaps the design includes purple cap-crowns?

MM

What erudite artist designed this lively textile? To what group did he belong?

Think you know? Submit your guess below; we’ll reveal the answer on Thursday!

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Guest Post: The Making of a Fashion Icon

By Cary O’Dell

In the world of fashion, the term “icon” is bandied about almost as frequently as the words “brilliant” and “fabulous.”  And, granted, innumerable women like Lady Gaga, Madonna, Cher, Sharon Stone, Sophia Loren and Charlotte Rampling (to whom Tom Ford has frequently paid devoted homage) have consistently made significant fashion statements over the years…but are they truly icons?  Well-dressed, yes.  Fashion-forward, no doubt.  But have any crafted a signature style, one all their own, one that will still look both “modern” and distinctly them long after they are gone, or at least departed from the limelight?  I think one is hard pressed to make the case of a singular enduring style from any of these women.

Yet, there are a handful of women—all from the past century—who do rank as true fashion icons: women of such unmatched personal style that, even now, often a decade or more after their passing, their collective influence on high fashion and everyday dress remains firmly intact.

So what was (is) their secret?

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis almost seems to have been born an icon.  Her regal upbringing, her flawless posture acquired via youthful horseback riding, gave her a model’s stature and grace.  Additionally, Mrs. Onassis just seemed to wear clothes so beautifully.  Jackie, like Princess Diana later, could dress down (in a trench coat and sunglasses for the late First Lady; in her son’s ball cap and jeans for the late Princess) and still look undeniably chic.  Jackie’s enduring style, her ability to “slum” it if you will, came from the long, solid, fashionable foundation she had already so firmly cultivated mainly during years in the White House.

jackie1

Jaqueline Kennedy in Oleg Cassini

Of course, Mrs. Kennedy did not achieve this stature alone.  She had ample help from legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland, to whom the then Senator’s wife turned to for advice early in her public life.  And, most importantly, from the rarefied vision of the too-often undervalued designer Oleg Cassini.

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Dress by Oleg Cassini

Despite his occasional copying of specific looks from the French couture–always done at the insistence of Mrs. Kennedy–Cassini nevertheless crafted for the First Lady a brilliant and everlasting look.  Favoring straight lines, simple silhouettes, solid colors (usually pastels) and a near constant avoidance of prints rendered Jackie’s White House wardrobe a remarkable timelessness.

Similarly, the 20th century’s other great style ideal, Audrey Hepburn, too, arrived on the scene bearing a dancer’s grace and a super-slim figure, perfect for the couture.  And couture is what she gave us for decades thanks mainly to the refined work of the great Hubert de Givenchy.  With Hepburn as both muse and client, Givenchy fabricated an elegant and rarefied persona for her.

hepburn2

Audrey Hepburn in Givenchey

Their ascent was mutual and simultaneous.  After working for Schiaparelli from 1947 to 1951, Givenchy founded his own house in 1952; Hepburn made her major film debut, in “Roman Holiday,” in 1953.  She would first be dressed by Givenchy, on film, the following year in “Sabrina.”  The rest, as they say, is film (and fashion) history.  For the remainder of her life and career, on screen and off, Hepburn would seldom wear anyone else.  With time, the two became fully intertwined; his style was hers and hers was his.

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Audrey Hepburn in Givenchey

Like Jackie before her, Hepburn had found the perfect formula to achieve full fashion icon status:  find a designer and stick with them; find an over-arching style and stick with it; eschew fads and short-lived trends; and ward off any sense of dated-ness by evolving with your chosen designer.  The flitting from one style to another (i.e. Madonna, Lady Gaga), as these two ladies seemed to know, might get you attention but it does not create a style legacy.

Other women, other icons, have recognized this and employed this same recipe.  The amazing C.Z. Guest created and maintained a long, fruitful relationship with Mainbocher.  She admired his subtle style and perfect cuts.  And he seemed to see in her—like Givenchy had with Audrey Hepburn—the perfect envoy for his designs.  Isabella Blow, too, found a symbiotic relationship with a designer, the mad hatter Philip Treacy.  Though her looks were completely avant-garde (and an acquired taste), there’s little doubt that they were uniquely her.

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C.Z. Guest in Mainbocher

All this is not to say that an icon cannot embrace a bit of designer diversity.  Even during her White House years, Jackie showed a willingness to discretely work Chanel and Givenchy into her wardrobe.  She was wearing a Chanel suit that day in Dallas.

After leaving public life, Mrs. Kennedy (later Mrs. Onassis) diversified even more.  Now able to more freely wear non-American designers, Mrs. O. became a regular patron of Valentino and Madame Gres.  Once, she even put on a typical, mod and multi-colored Pucci mini-dress.  Regardless of these diversions, her core minimalist style largely remained and, besides, by this time, it did not matter; she was already above reproach.

Along with their loyalty to particular designers, these ladies also knew that the best way to ensure their ongoing style viability was to completely commit to simplicity.  If Chanel once said, “Get fully dressed and then remove one item” (or something to that effect) then these women practiced that philosophy in the extreme.  The equally iconic Duchess of Windsor once said, “Clothes should be so simple and unobtrusive as to seem unimportant.”  It was a philosophy that the one-time Wallis Simpson followed devotedly.  Her world-famous 1937 wedding gown–slim, unadorned and originally dyed “Windsor blue”—was designed by Mainbocher.  And though she regularly wore a variety of couturiers (Balenciaga, Dior, Givenchy), she, too, seemed to favor a highly pared-away style,  only offset by carefully chosen pieces from her incredible jewelry collection.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor ,1937. Wedding dress by Mainbocher now held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. image credit: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor ,1937. Wedding dress by Mainbocher now held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
image credit: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Interestingly, at the time of her premature death in 1997, Diana, the Princess of Wales, was also moving towards a new more streamlined image.  After beginning her public life at the tender age of 19 and quickly being used as passive, put-upon dress-up doll by a host of British designers, Diana would in time—especially post children and divorce—firmly take her own image in hand.  She too eliminated the frills and cheap thrills of ruffled, busy clothes in favor looks more sedated, even somber, but still undeniably elegant.  Her fashion progression became especially visible in the photo retrospectives published after her passing and via the two auctions of her gowns that have been held, the first in 1997, the second, posthumously, in 2011.

Royal Couple At Theatre

Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing Catherine Walker

Diana’s increasing reliance on a smaller group of designers near the end of her life (notably the late Catherine Walker) seemed to suggest that she too had found the tried-and-true equation to transform herself from merely “well-dressed” into international style icon.

Of late, Michelle Obama seems to be working towards icon status as well.  Though except for her early reliance on twin sets (which echo C.Z. Guest), the current First Lady has yet to establish a defining style for herself.  But with a few more years (if not many) still on the world stage and her willingness to work with a good, small team of notable designers (like Jason Wu), Mrs. Obama stands a chance of emerging as our latest, newest style goddess.  The First Lady has the tools—and the figure—now it just remains to be seen if she has the inclination.

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First Lady Michelle Obama in Jason Wu

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CFP: Gender, Race, and Representation in Magazines and New Media

Gender, Race, and Representation in Magazines and New Media

An interdisciplinary conference to be held October 25th-27th, 2013 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, co-sponsored by Cornell University (Africana Studies) and Syracuse University (Women’s and Gender Studies)

 Conference website: http://cornellmagazinesconference.wordpress.com/

In June of 2012, scholars and magazine professionals from all over the world, and from a wide array of disciplines met at the “Women in Magazine’s” conference at Kingston University in London. “Gender, Race, and Representation in Magazines and New Media” seeks to continue the discussions of the “Women in Magazines” conference and extend them to a closer consideration of race in magazines, as well as the impact of new media and technology on magazines and raced and gendered representations. This conference hopes to broaden the scope of what is traditionally considered a magazine from the bound paper journal, to virtual magazines published digitally.

Magazines have long played a key role in the everyday lives of people of all classes, races, and genders and are a fertile space for the expression of social and political philosophies. The forms such publications have taken are staggeringly diverse—mass market publications, Xeroxed fanzines, cheap weeklies for the working class, so-called “smart set,” guides for the home economist, specialized trade publications, political mouthpieces and popular tabloids—magazines have served an astonishing array of audiences and purposes. In short, magazines are a particularly rich and potent sight for research as they so often serve as important outlets for identity formation, defining what it means to be a part of a certain community, class, or even generation through both image and text.

Now, with the increased availability of magazines to scholars through digitization initiatives, as well as the explosion of blogs, tumbler sites, and online magazines that at times enhance print versions of magazines, and at other times replace them entirely, the time is ripe for examining the role, meaning and place of magazines as sites to be mined for representations of gender and race.

Keynote Speakers include:

Kimberly Foster, founder and editor of “For Harriet” http://www.forharriet.com/

 Ellen Garvey, professor in English and Women and Gender Studies at New Jersey City University. http://web.njcu.edu/faculty/egarvey/Content/default.asp

We seek papers covering any geographical region or time period and any kind of magazine/new media platform (blog, Tumblr, Pinterest, digital magazines) on topics including, but not limited to:

·         Methods and Methodology—Various approaches to using magazines as source material

·         Design and magazines, magazines and visual culture

·         Themes and conversations within magazines and new media (e.g. class, aspirations,  celebrity culture, relationships, entertainment and gossip, politics and citizenship, beauty and fashion, the home, work and career)

·         Representations of disease, health and wellness:

·         The magazine industry (e.g. editors, journalists, designers, photographers, illustrators)

·         Historical perspectives on changing technology

·         The ways that new media is changing magazine studies

·         The ways that different business models affect the politics and representation in magazines and new media?

Submission Guidelines:

At this time we are requesting abstracts that are no longer than 400 words; due by May 1, 2013 and should be submitted electronically as an attachment tocornellmagazinesconference@gmail.com.

Individual and panel proposals will be accepted. Presenters will be notified by June 1, 2013 whether their submissions have been accepted.

Abstracts will be selected based on best fit with the themes of the conference outlined in the CFP.

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Fashions and Textiles of the Wiener Werkstätte

My brief study of the textiles of the Wiener Werkstätte last week left me wishing I knew more, so I spent the last week mining some additional information and images to share with you. Here are some equally intriguing tidbits about the textile and fashion departments:

Wiener Werkstätte. Dress, 1924. Slik, print probably by Josef Hoffmann. Accession number 1982.52 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Wiener Werkstätte. Dress, 1924. Slik, print probably by Josef Hoffmann. Accession number 1982.52 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mixed prints? Tassel jewelry? Feather accessories? Bold black and white? I could be describing recent trends, or I could be describing the fashions and fabrics of the Wiener Werkstätte.

Active since the Workshop’s conception in 1903, the textile department of the Wiener Werkstätte was not formally organized until 1910. As I mentioned last week, Josef Hoffmann is credited with many of 1,800 designs the department produced, but he was only one of approximately 80 members who designed printed textiles for fashion and furnishings as well as custom textiles for more expensive interiors. As head of the department, Hoffmann oversaw the work of designers such as Dagobert Peche, Maria Likarz, Maria Vera Brunner, Jacqueline Groag, Carl Otto Czeschka, Max Snischek, Leopold Blonder, and Lotte Frömel-Fochler.

The fashion department of Wiener Werkstätte was also founded around 1910. Led by Eduard Wimmer-Wisgrill, the department saw significant growth in its first four years; this growth resulted in a restructuring around 1914 with the creation of new segments, including a special section dedicated to blouse design and construction. According to the Victoria and Albert Museum, it was in this same year that the Workshop first used patterned textiles as fashion fabrics.

Wimmer, Eduard and Ugo Zovetti. Blouse, ca. 1914. Silk satin lined with cotton and trimmed with net. Accession number T.47-2004 at The Victoria and Albert Museum.

Wimmer, Eduard and Ugo Zovetti. Blouse, ca. 1914. Silk satin lined with cotton and trimmed with net. Accession number T.47-2004 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The printed fabrics of the Wiener Werkstätte feature geometric compositions as well as colors and shapes inspired by the more temporal aspects of natural world. In many of the surviving samples, order and chaos coexist in floral designs reduced to the simplest representational shapes, while forests of repeated forms swarm over the surface of silk swatches. The designs of the Workshop refused to sit quietly on a couch cushion or a blouse; instead, they matched or exceeded the abrupt modernity of the interior or outfit of which they played a pivotal role.

Inspiration for these designs came from various sources, including regional folk art and modern art. As styles changed, so did the textiles, and when observed chronologically in Textiles of the Wiener Werkstatte, 1910-1932, the shift from Art Nouveau to Art Deco is easily visible.

Hoffmann, Josef. Eggs, ca. 1907/8–14. Color lithograph, 13.3 x 8.3 cm. Accession number WW.5.

Hoffmann, Josef. Eggs,
ca. 1907/8–14. Color lithograph, 13.3 x 8.3 cm. Accession number WW.5 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Koehler, Mela. Mode mit Maske, ca. 1907/8–14. Color lithograph, 14.1 x 8.9 cm. Accession Number WW.270 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Koehler, Mela. Mode mit Maske, ca. 1907/8–14. Color lithograph, 14.1 x 8.9 cm. Accession Number WW.270 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Likarz, Maria. Fashion (Mode), ca. 1907/8–14. Color lithograph, 14 x 9 cm. Accession number WW.781 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Likarz, Maria. Fashion (Mode), ca. 1907/8–14. Color lithograph, 14 x 9 cm. Accession number WW.781 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Zülow, Franz von. Narcissus, 1910. Accession number 1984.537.120a-h at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Zülow, Franz von. Narcissus, 1910. Accession number 1984.537.120a-h at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unknown designer of the Wiener Werkstätte. Textile sample, 1910–28. Silk, 26.7 x 17.1 cm. Accession number 1994.549.20 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unknown designer of the Wiener Werkstätte. Textile sample, 1910–28. Silk, 26.7 x 17.1 cm. Accession number 1994.549.20 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unknown designer at the Wiener Werkstätte. Textile sample, 1910–28. Silk, 19.7 x 27.9 cm. Accession number 1994.549.14 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unknown designer at the Wiener Werkstätte. Textile sample, 1910–28. Silk, 19.7 x 27.9 cm. Accession number 1994.549.14 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Likarz, Maria. Fashion (Mode), ca. 1907/8–14. Color lithograph, 9 x 14 cm). Accession number WW.559 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Likarz, Maria. Fashion (Mode), ca. 1907/8–14. Color lithograph, 9 x 14 cm). Accession number WW.559 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unknown designer of the Wiener Werkstätte. Textile sample, ca. 1920. Accession number 1984.537.118 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unknown designer of the Wiener Werkstätte. Textile sample, ca. 1920. Accession number 1984.537.118 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Klimt, Gustav. Textile sample, ca. 1920. Accession number 1984.537.36a-f at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Klimt, Gustav. Textile sample, ca. 1920. Accession number 1984.537.36a-f at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unknown designer at the Wiener Werkstätte. China silk textile sample, ca. 1920. Accession number 1984.537.108 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unknown designer at the Wiener Werkstätte. China silk textile sample, ca. 1920. Accession number 1984.537.108 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Peche, Dagobert. Wrong Way, 1922. Gouache on paper. Accession number 1984.537.23.

Peche, Dagobert. Wrong Way, 1922. Gouache on paper. Accession number 1984.537.23.

Likarz, Maria. Romulus, 1928. Silk, 27.9 x 18.4 cm. Accession number 1994.549.42.

Likarz, Maria. Romulus, 1928. Silk, 27.9 x 18.4 cm. Accession number 1994.549.42.

In time, additional expansions of the fashion department led to segments focused on the design and production of hats, handbags, shoes, and other accessories, as well as trimmings such as lace. For a detailed timeline of the history of Wiener Werkstatte and its various departments, please visit this website.

Additional Resources:
1. Noever, Peter, ed. Dagobert Peche and the Wiener Werkstätte. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press in association with the Neue Galerie New York, c2002.
2. Rayner, Geoffrey. Jacqueline Groag. Textile & Pattern Design: Wiener Werkstätte to American Modern. Woodbridge, England: Antique Collectors’ Club, c2009.
3. Völker, Angela. Moda, Wiener Werkstätte. Firenze: Cantini, c1990.
4. Völker, Angela and Ruperta Pichler, collaborator. Textiles of the Wiener Werkstätte, 1910-1932. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2004.
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Mystery Monday: Mela Koehler

Yes, this lithograph is by Mela Koehler (1865 – 1960), a close collaborator with the Wiener Werkstätte.

Koehler, Mela. Happy Easter! (Frohe Ostern!), ca. 1907/8–14. Color lithograph, 5 1/2 x 3 9/16 in. (14 x 9 cm). Accession Number WW.553 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Koehler, Mela. Happy Easter! (Frohe Ostern!), ca. 1907/8–14. Color lithograph, 5 1/2 x 3 9/16 in. (14 x 9 cm). Accession Number WW.553 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Founded in 1903 by Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser, the Wiener Werkstätte, or Vienna Workshop, remained active for only 29 years, but its influence perseveres. At its conception and long past its dissolution, the Wiener Werkstätte serves as an unforgettable reminder that progress cannot always be measured in the charts and figures so often employed by proponents of mass production.

Members of the Wiener Werkstätte included artists and architects interested in elevating the ordinary and mundane, who believed strongly in the ability to improve the most utilitarian objects and the most menial tasks with thoughtful design. The movement was both socially and aesthetically progressive, embracing new fashions as part of a Gesamtkunstwerk, a unified work of art that addresses all facets of design, including the architecture and interiors of the home and workplace. Of course, the Workshop owed much to William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement.

So, what was Mela Koehler’s role? Born in Vienna, she studied at the School of Applied Arts with Koloman Moser. She was a member of the Österreichischer Werkbund, an organization that held similar values to the Wiener Werkstätte. Koehler was also a member of the Vereinigung bildender Künstlerinnnen und Kunsthandwerkerinnen Wiener Frauenkunst, or Association of Female Artists and Craftswomen, which was commonly abbreviated to Wiener Frauenkunst. She was a supporter of women’s rights and women’s suffrage, so it is fitting that her clever fashion illustrations for the Wiener Werkstätte often feature women who are direct and confident.

Koehler worked closely with members of the Wiener Werkstätte from the late 1900s to its closure. As an illustrator, she participated in the design of more than 900 postcards featuring whimsical holiday themes and fashion illustrations.

Koehler, Mela. Happy Easter! (Frohe Ostern!). From Mail Art Anno Klimt, found online.

Koehler, Mela. Happy Easter! (Frohe Ostern!). From Mail Art Anno Klimt, found online.

Koehler, Mela. Bright yellow egg dress with two bunnies, from the series Easter greetings, about 1912. Color lithograph on card stock, 14 x 8.9 cm. Accession number PG.2010.194.1 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Koehler, Mela. Bright yellow egg dress with two bunnies, from the series Easter greetings, about 1912. Color lithograph on card stock, 14 x 8.9 cm. Accession number PG.2010.194.1 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Koehler, Mela. Wiener Werkstatte Dress, 1911. From the University of California, San Diego. Found on ARTstor.

Koehler, Mela. Wiener Werkstatte Dress, 1911. From the University of California, San Diego. Found on ARTstor.

Koehler, Mela. Fur trim black hat, from the series Portraits of women with hats. Color lithograph on card stock, 14 x 8.9 cm. Accession Number PG.2010.182.1 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Koehler, Mela. Fur trim black hat, from the series Portraits of women with hats. Color lithograph on card stock, 14 x 8.9 cm. Accession Number PG.2010.182.1 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Like other products of the Workshop, these postcards carried a strong message: that great design can impact and improve every part of life. The Workshop created these postcards during a period when mail delivery occurred multiple times a day, and these holiday cards amused recipients while the fashion illustrations informed women on the popular patterns and styles of reform dress.

Though the holiday postcards often featured period dress, the aesthetic of the Wiener Werkstätte is visible in Koehler’s fashion illustrations, which shared the exaggerated drama of the frenetic, abstract patterns of the fashion fabrics designed by Josef Hoffmann. For example, here is a dress the recipient of Monday’s mystery postcard may have worn:

Wiener Werkstätte. Afternoon Dress, 1913–16. Silk textile designed by Dagobert Peche, dress designed by Joseph Wimmer-Wisgrill. Accession Number C.I.64.69.1 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Wiener Werkstätte. Afternoon Dress, 1913–16. Silk textile designed by Dagobert Peche, dress designed by Joseph Wimmer-Wisgrill. Accession Number C.I.64.69.1 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Of course, the modern Austrian woman of the 1910s would have paired this dress with the perfect accessories. Perhaps she would have worn shoes with a similar pattern, or an equally colorful and modern purse. And can you imagine? Only several years later, in 1918, an Austrian woman could have worn this ensemble to the polls! Progress, indeed.

Wiener Werkstätte. Purse, around 1915. Leather, 3 1/2 in L. Accession number 1994.470 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Wiener Werkstätte. Purse, around 1915. Leather, 3 1/2 in L. Accession number 1994.470 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Interested in learning more about Mela Koehler or the Wiener Werkstätte? Visit next week for a post about textile design with additional illustrations and images.

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Mystery Monday: Easter Edition

Spring break has arrived and Easter is on its way!

To celebrate the arrival of a favorite holiday and holy day, here’s the latest mystery:

EasterMM

What artist took a break from fashion illustration to draw this whimsical scene?

Think you know? Submit your guess below; we’ll tell you all about this talented artist on Thursday!

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Mystery Monday: The Countess da Castiglione

Yes, this is a photo of the Countess da Castiglione.

Pierson, Pierre-Louis. Scherzo di Follia, 1863-66, printed 1940s. ID number 21041 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Pierson, Pierre-Louis. Scherzo di Follia, 1863-66, printed 1940s. Identification number 21041 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

When the Countess met Pierre-Louis Pierson in 1856, ego met opportunity and a lifetime partnership began. For many years, Pierson photographed the great beauty as  she portrayed mythical and historical figures in a series of portraits that complemented her figure and fueled her narcissism.  Fully aware of her physical charms, the Countess employed her wit and invested her assets in a series of dalliances with influential and affluent men that funded her extravagant tastes and secured her reputation as a femme fatale.

In the portrait above, the Countess looks cold and wary; she is purposefully distant, and the framed eye and the draping of her gown hint of deception. The Countess is creating an illusion; she is inviting the viewer to see only what she chooses to reveal. Her pose in this photograph is comparable to the scripted lines of today’s reality television shows, in which producers and directors stage scenes and direct participants to create fantasies that sometimes show a mere glimpse of actuality. In her photographs, the Countess is creating a cleverly constructed fantasy for admirers and for herself.

Pierson, Pierre-Louis. La Reine d'Étrurie, 1863-67. Albumen silver print from glass negative, 11.3 x 9.4 cm. Accession number 2005.100.421 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Pierson, Pierre-Louis. La Reine d’Étrurie, 1863-67. Albumen silver print from glass negative, 11.3 x 9.4 cm. Accession number 2005.100.421 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

When viewing these beautiful and fanciful photographs of the Countess, many viewers assume that Pierre-Louis Pierson directed the camera angle, the poses, and perhaps made suggestions about clothing and costume. Pierson did photograph the Countess, but it was the egotistical beauty who decided the theme, composition and subject matter.

Pierson, Pierre-Louis. Countess de Castiglione as Elvira at the Cheval Glass, 1861-67. Salted paper print from glass negative, 14.5 x 15.4 cm. Accession number 2005.100.392 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Pierson, Pierre-Louis. Countess de Castiglione as Elvira at the Cheval Glass, 1861-67. Salted paper print from glass negative, 14.5 x 15.4 cm. Accession number 2005.100.392 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Countess’ love of fashion is evident in the many photographs she composed with gowns and accessories. Whether she was feigning to be Elvira at the Cheval Glass, Anne Boleyn, or personifying a darker, unnamed emotion, the Countess could not completely divorce her characters from contemporary culture. What gowns! Such hair! What striking hats and fans! The element of fantasy is always grounded with a grain of reality as the Countess poses while wearing fashions of the mid to late 1800s.

Pierson, Pierre-Louis. La Comtesse Reclining in Dark Dress with Chain Around Neck, 1861-65. Albumen silver print from glass negative, 10.2 x 12.0 cm. Accession number 1975.548.257 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Pierson, Pierre-Louis. La Comtesse Reclining in Dark Dress with Chain Around Neck, 1861-65. Albumen silver print from glass negative, 10.2 x 12.0 cm. Accession number 1975.548.257 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Over 400 portraits of the Countess exist, and while some reveal a different facet of the Countess, they primarily document a fanciful element of three periods of her life – her entrance into Parisian society, her return to Paris after a brief exile, and her later years.

Pierson, Pierre-Louis. Rachel, September 1, 1893. Albumen silver print from glass negative, 14.6 x 9.8 cm. Accession Number 2005.100.390 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Pierson, Pierre-Louis. Rachel, September 1, 1893. Albumen silver print from glass negative, 14.6 x 9.8 cm. Accession Number 2005.100.390 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a series of thematic essays on a variety of subjects, including an essay written by Malcolm Daniel about the Countess. Please see this website for a detailed biography and further resources.

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Mystery Monday

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

We look at this woman and observe her detailed gown and her striking crown of gray hair. We notice how her elegant, long fingers gracefully hold a frame to a haughty eye.
What does she see? What is her appraisal of her viewer?

MMWho is the brazen fashionista in this photograph?

Think you know? Add your guess below; we’ll tell you all about her on Thursday!

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Exhibition Review: Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity

This weekend, while visiting the newest exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum Art,  I watched as ruffles became brush strokes and bright buttons became dots of paint on a canvas.

At Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity, gowns, suits, parasols, hats, and fans from the period are available for your study, as they appear alongside paintings containing similar and sometimes the same objects. Each object reveals details the Impressionist painters left to our imagination, but being removed from this period, it is difficult to imagine and infer the beautiful detail of the bustle or the expertly sewn soutache trim without seeing the garment or accessory firsthand.

This exhibit teaches how to see these paintings more accurately. It gives us a hint of the reality Monet, Courbet, Tissot, and others transformed into statements of style and feeling. The artists captured distinct moments in a previous time, one that was vastly different from our own.

Credit Suzanne De Chillo of the New York Times.

Credit: Suzanne De Chillo/New York Times

In the paintings displayed at Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity, bold fashions are as prominent as the subject, sometimes overwhelming a portrait with a striped dress or a red bolero. The striking gowns and accessories in these works demand an audience; the color, setting, and subject matter reflect on a new era in fashionable clothing and conduct for the epitome of urbanity – the Parisian.

The women wearing peignoirs, day dresses, and evening gowns captured by the Impressionist painters convey an intimacy and immediacy of the moment and of the era. The quick brush stokes share an expediency with the industrial age, as ready to wear and patterns made fashionable dress available to most social classes. The large, loose application of color exploits the frivolity of fashionable lace and trim, building volume where none existed. And the variety of colors upon the canvas explores the novelty of alkaline dyes on women posed near treasured antiques.

The Impressionists were capturing a change in lifestyle, a nod to the new consumerism, an acceptance of relaxed morals (at least for those among the artistic community), and the increasing disparity between men’s and women’s fashion.

The first half of the exhibit features dresses from the 1860s and their triangular silhouette, with a fitted bodice and a full skirt with additional gathering at the back. With the crinoline, the volume of the skirt becomes a dramatic feature of many of the Impressionist paintings, especially when artists borrowed poses from the popular fashion plates, also on exhibit. These skillfully rendered illustrations, created as steel and wood engravings, display intricate dress details overlaid by bright paints carefully applied by hand.

Monet, Claude. Luncheon on the Grass (left panel and center panel), 1865-66.  Oil on canvas, 164 5/8 x 59 (left panel) and 97 7/8 x 85 7/8 in. (right panel). From the collection at the Musée d'Orsay. Found online.

Monet, Claude. Luncheon on the Grass (left panel and center panel), 1865-66. Oil on canvas, 164 5/8 x 59 (left panel) and 97 7/8 x 85 7/8 in. (right panel). From the collection at the Musée d’Orsay. Found online.

A moment, a glance, and a well-placed prop – much of Impressionism is just that.  They are works that quietly share their stories through quick, bold brushstrokes documenting both dress fabric and model. Dollops of lace or tarlatan share the canvas with the subject strolling languidly en plein air or relaxing in a lavish interior space. A fashionable cashmere shawl draped dramatically over a woman’s arm and back is forever captured, and a glove drops to the floor remaining there as posed as the model wearing its mate. A coquettish turn of the head replaces the structured pose of a formal portrait, and the yardage of unstructured intimate apparel reveals much about a relationship.

In some these portraits, fashion gives an impression of impropriety. Illicit affairs are subtly implied by the presence of men’s accessories – a monocle or a top hat. Jeanne Duval, Baudelaire’s mistress, received a cavalier portrayal in Manet’s work of 1862, as she lays crippled and blind from syphilis. She is of course, dressed in white, but as Emile Zola said, she is in one of the many tones of white used during the period. Could this white be an accusatory tone, or simply an accurate one? Her portrait does certainly not pay her any compliments.

Zola has a quite a presence at the exhibit. His words appear on walls adjacent to Impressionist masterpieces, and his flattering description often describes his appreciation for the artists and their subjects. As a contemporary, Zola and other quoted critics provide a valuable perspective to the artwork surrounding them.

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Credit: Suzanne De Chillo/New York Times

In the 1880s, the triangular silhouette evolved into the shortened princess style, its bustle and elegant swept tiers hinting at movement and providing a new canvas for jet beading, fringe, and other popular trims. Men’s fashion had also developed a more streamlined shape. According to a contemporary critic, a suit had become two pipes feeding into a larger pipe, and topped “by a gutter pipe” – a hat! The urban male had become stylishly serious, requiring only two types of clothes, both day and evening. In the 1880s, a woman’s wardrobe was still confined by the corset and fashions that mandated many changes of dress based on time of day and activity.

Fantin-Latour, Henri. Édouard Manet, 1867. Oil on canvas; 46 5/16 x 35 7/16 in. Part of the collection at The Art Institute of Chicago. Found online.

Fantin-Latour, Henri. Édouard Manet, 1867. Oil on canvas, 46 5/16 x 35 7/16 in. Part of the collection at The Art Institute of Chicago. Found online.

Of course, Worth has a presence at this exhibit in both fabric and pictorial scenes of parties and festivities. His detailed gowns, with their well-placed pleats and trims, were widely copied both in Europe and in the United States. When describing a particularly gossamer Worth creation, a plaque in the exhibit mentions that the rose and leaves stitched to the gown would have “trembled with every movement of the wearer”. A man’s top hat, both stately and serious, was the perfect foil for a woman’s flower-covered bonnet.

The enduring appeal of the Impressionists is this: these omitted details that place garments to a certain period or year are replaced by an emotional expression – an expression of joy, of lust, of friendship. It is this emotional expression that allows these interpretations of period fashion to remain relevant.  It also best serves the fashions and designers of the day. For what is fashion removed from feeling and a designer removed from his zeitgeist? Clothing without context is just a shell of a story. Alongside a painting, a dress or a suit becomes part of a visual essay on context and culture.

For a multitude of images of the exhibit, please visit this site. Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until May 27, 2013.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10028-0198
Phone: 212-535-7710

Hours:
Tuesday–Thursday: 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 9:30 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
Sunday: 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

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