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Part 29. Artists and Their Textile Designs

Artists and their Textile Designs

Here are three books: all high quality, well produced, if somewhat highbrow; one book on artists in general then two on the individuals - Jacqueline Groag and Henry Moore.

My first choice is Artists' Textiles 1940-1976 by Geoffrey Rayner, Richard Chamberlain and Annamarie Stapleton. It is essentially an expanded version of Artists' Textiles in Britain 1945-1970 by the same authors which I reviewed in Culcita 23 (Autumn 2008) but, at twice the length because it now includes America, plus a longer time span, it has quite a different scope.

The three-hundred page book has only four chapters. It begins with a twenty-one page Introduction 1910-1939, setting the artistic scene, then fifty four pages on The 1950s, eighty four on The 1960s, ninety eight on The 1960s. These three follow the same format, the chapter heading gives a very brief outline of the decade, a subsection details artistic activity in Britain, then the chapter ends with artistic America. The text is informative rather than chatty, and there is not a lot of it - only one column to any page. So be prepared for an academic read, with footnotes referenced at the side. But the illustrations are what the book is about; they are mostly the fabric designs, all in full colour, many full or double page spreads and very well captioned. My only quibble would be that there is no size/scale given, some are dress fabrics, others furnishing fabrics and some scarves.

The book ends with sixteen pages of Biographies, useful alphabetical list of two hundred word resumes of people and firms, a two-page Bibliography and a single page Index (with text and images differentiated).

This is not an easy read but provides a very useful overview of the fabric designing world, here and in America and the personalities and firms involved. And it is beautifully produced, well worth the money.

My next book concentrates on one designer Jacqueline Groag: her work may be familiar as the Underground moquette upholstery from the late 70s, her Kardomah coffee house interiors or her many John Lewis' fabrics. Jacqueline Groag , Textile and Pattern Design:Wiener Werkstatte to American Modern by Geoffrey Rayner, Richard Chamberlain and Annamarie Stapleton is a more accessible account of her life and work and confirms how the focus of textile design moved from Germany- so influential in the early Twentieth century -to England and America post war as covered by my first review book.

The Groag book follows a usual format, one page each on Acknowledgements and Jacqueline Groag:an appreciation by Isabelle Anscombe, a four-page Introduction, a five page Karin's Story (by one of her assistants) then the rest of the book is two hundred pages of Jacqueline's Story. This is subdivided into 1903-1929: Early Years the Wein Kunstgewerbeschule and the Weiner Werkstatte, 1930-1939: Vienna, Paris and Prague; 1939-1945: Emigration, London and the Second World War; 1945-1950: Britain can make it, The Rayon Design Centre, the Kardomah Resuarants, 1951-1956: The Festival of Britain, David Whitehead and Associated American Artists, 1957-1962: Trains and Boats and Planes, 1962-1986: Jacques' death , Jacqueline's teaching and her later work.

Then follow Jacqueline Groag: Plates, roughly chronological illustrations, again single /double page full colour spreads of her designs; Textile, paper and other decorative work, well captioned but no scale included. Appendices include a page on Manufacturers and Companies, one on Exhibitions and Awards, two for Bibliography and two for the Index.

My last book is Henry Moore Textiles edited by Anita Feldman. Until I read this, I had no idea of the scope and importance of his textile designs, a pleasant revelation. The book begins with a Preface by David Mitchinson introducing this exhibition at the Henry Moore Foundation and then Sue Prichard writes an interesting and lucid twenty page Introduction, British Textile Design: The Quest for a New Aesthetic.

The remaining one hundred and thirty pages are by the curator of the Foundation, Anita Feldman.  Henry Moore Textiles is introduced, then divided into Designs, Squares, Dress and upholstery fabrics and Wall panels. There is little text but all the full colour illustrations are very well captioned, if somewhat stiff and formal but measurements are included and often the same textile is illustrated in various colourways/fabrics. For this section, numbered notes are footnotes, in the earlier part they are gathered at the end of the chapter; quite a book of two authors.

The last page has Related publications, Selected Moore publications, Related exhibition catalogues and Photographic credits.

Again, not light reading but Sue Prichard's essay gives an interesting - and more readable introduction - to the involvement of artists in the textile design scene, expanding Rayner's Introduction 1910-1939 in the first book. And for the money, a well-illustrated monograph.

Taken together I hope these three books will give both an overview and some depth to this historically important time of textile design and production.


Artists' Textiles 1940-1976 by Geoffrey Rayner, Richard Chamberlain and Annamarie Stapleton is published by The Antique Collectors Club, (www.antiquecollectorsclub.com2012.ISBN 978 1 85149 629 7 at £29.95 (£23.96 plus p&p online). However, it is cheaper elsewhere, ABE ( have the best deals, just look carefully at postage costs.

Jacqueline Groag;Textile and Pattern Design:Wiener Werkstatte to American Modern by Geoffrey Rayner, Richard Chamberlain and Annamarie Stapleton was also published byThe Antique Collectors Club, ( 2009, ISBN 978 1 85149 590 0 at £25.00. Their website has it at £20.00 plus p&p but Amazon are offering it at £19.50 post free.

Henry Moore Textiles, edited by Anita Feldman was published by Lund Humphries, Surrey in 2008, ISBN 978 1 84822 052 2. Again ABE ( have the best price-£14.80 plus postage.

© Brigid J.Ockelton. 2012

PLEASE NOTE - An indication is given of the availability and market price of the book at the time of writing and may not reflect today's availability and price.