Picasso by the yard — that’s how some of the iconic painter’s art work was sold in the middle of the 20th century.
His Toros y Toreros (1963) design for Bloomcraft Fabrics was among several that became accessible to the masses, who appropriated it on household items such as pillows, curtains, lampshades, tablecloth. A Fish print he created for Fuller Fabrics, meanwhile, was used by American fashion designer Claire McCardell in a dress in her signature "American Look" style.
In fact, textiles provided a unique creative medium for artists to bridge the seeming divide between art and life, and to make their work less elitist and more accessible to broader audiences, through personal and intimate items like clothing and home furnishings.
Henri Matisse and Henry Moore designed shawls for Ascher Ltd in the UK, while Marino Marini and Victor Vasarely were contracted to Edinburgh Weavers. Post-war in the United States, New York-based Fuller Fabrics released a line of Picasso prints, quickly followed by ‘Art by the Yard’ by Joan Miró, Fernand Léger, Marc Chagall and Raoul Dufy. Salvador Dalí and the Marcel Vertès hopped onto the bandwagon, and even Andy Warhol turned his hand to designing food-related patterns that went on to become commercially produced clothing.
A new exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada, Artist Textiles: From Picasso to Warhol, explores how textile design and printmaking became — and continues to be — an important and lasting aspect of artists’ works.