Monday, September 30, 2013

Modern Print Monday: Irene Lentz

Irene Lentz's tropical costume for
Ginger Rogers in 1933's Flying Down to Rio

Irene Lentz (1901-1962) succeeded Adrian as MGM's lead costumer
and did over 160 movies as Irene from 1933 to 1962.

This two-color, over-scaled leaf print still looks fresh.
Costumers like Irene and Adrian popularized
modern design with movie goers, one reason
modern prints became the standard in the 1930s.

See a website devoted to Irene Lentz here:

Feedsacks a decade or two later.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sentimentalism and Quilts

Grandma Moses
The Quilting Bee

The conflict between sentimentalism and modernism is intrinsic in the word quilt.

Quilts ARE sentimental. Dropping one into a painting evokes all sorts of sentiment, primarily nostalgia for an imagined rural life of female domesticity.

Bob Pettes
The Quilting Bee

Morgan Weistling
The Quilting Bee

It's hard to overcome the connection, which is why some textile artists refuse to use the word quilt to describe their art.

Robert Rauschenberg
Bed, 1955
Collection of the Museum of Modern Art

But you can also work with that sentimentality to "Épater la bourgeoisie" (Shock the Middle Class) as Robert Rauschenberg did when he created a sensation by painting on his sheets and bedquilt and mounting the bed on a gallery wall.

Robert Rauschenberg ,Credit Blossom (Spread) 1978
Collection of the North Carolina Museum of Art

Here is another of his "combines" incorporating a quilt.

The museum caption tells us it is:
"Solvent transfer, quilt, and other fabrics on paperboard applied to gessoed wood panel 84 x 108 x 2 in."
See a giant picture here by clicking on the photo on the Museum's web page. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Modern Print Monday: Frank Lloyd Wright

Silk-Screened Cotton from the Taliesin Line
for Schumacher by Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright (1857-1959) in 1938

In 1956 Wright did a line of 12 decorator prints and wallpapers for Schumacher's. Each design in the Taliesin line had a number rather than a name. 

Wright was a  mid-century architectural superstar. He advocated unified interior and exterior design in his buildings. He didn't do much textile design, probably because he preferred less pattern, but this series fit right into his interiors. Schumacher printed it for years.

Wright design for a side chair

Taliesin was a sixth-century Welsh poet. Wright gave the name to his home in Wisconsin and his winter home in Arizona.

The triangle design also came in olive and blue.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Modern Pattern: Embroidered Doily

Embroidered doily about 1910

Arts and crafts embroidery could be quite modern with flowers abstracted to extremes. This vintage piece has a lovely design, probably commercially produced by an American needlework company. Women bought the linen marked with a colored design and finished it with a satin stitch (Kensington stitch) outlined in a black chain stitch. They often used a raised satin stitch of two layers. 

The finished piece illustrates the design confusion associated with the modern movement. The lace edge is an echo of romanticism, a mixed message of new and traditional that marks much needlework of the era.

Here's a pattern for the motif.
Click on the picture above and save it to a JPG or a Word file.
Then print it out about 6" wide and trace it onto linen.

A table runner with a hemmed edge
captures the modern look better than
a lacy finish.

It's fascinating to see how women used these embroidered designs. In keeping with William Morris's dictate that one should have nothing but beautiful objects in the home, women made embroidered linen bags to hold their stockings, their hankies...

and their laundry.

They often embroidered their dresses

Here's a 1904 idea from Ladies Home Journal magazine

They advised the amateur artist to
copy arts and crafts motifs from
magazine illustrations.

And they made tea cozies.

The most common use for all that decoration was for pillows

and what my mother might have called a dresser scarf---
The doily above another example of modern/romantic.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Modern Print Monday: Adrian

"Shades of Picasso," 1945
by Adrian, California.
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Adrian with Joan Crawford

Nobody defined movie modernism better than Adrian A. Greenberg (1903-1959) who  used his first name for his costume design from 1924 to 1952. Imagine Crawford,  Garbo and Rosalind Russell and you know the"Gowns by Adrian" look. He also used the name Gilbert Adrian.

In 1945 Adrian did a fashion collection called "Modern Museum" reflecting the abstraction, color and shapes of cubism by Picasso and Braque. The Metropolitan Museum has a page on this collection here:

These dresses aren't prints but patchwork.

To see more of his work see Dorothea's Closet Pinterest page:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Principles of Modernism: No Sentimentalism

William Adolphe Bouguereau
A Little Coaxing, 1890

The epitome of  a romantic painter, Bouguereau told a story that the viewer can interpret: Perhaps: two sisters, one orange. The narrative is cute; the girls are sweet; the picture evokes many sentiments.
Sentimentalism is the use of art to evoke those kinds of emotions: cute, sweet, nostalgic, protective, heartwarming, etc. The modernists often defined themselves as anti-Bouguereau.

Édouard Manet
Le déjeuner sur l'herbe ("The Luncheon on the Grass")

Manet's painting is considered one of the first modern paintings, not so much in its abstraction or color but in its opposition to a narrative or sentimentalism. What is going on here? It's hard to interpret. Naked women, a picnic? It's unsettling and meant to be. 

There is no story. It is Art for the Sake of Art--- an important modern slogan. Stop looking for a narrative or an emotion.

Fernand Leger
Le déjeuner, 1921

 Again we have naked women eating a meal. What's it mean? Modernists kept pushing the non-narrative idea.

Two paintings by Helen Frankenthaler

Until the standard became color and shape for the sake of color and shape.

Modernists believed that true art should reject art's traditional obligation to uplift patriotic spirits, inspire religious faith and glorify the government.

"Art should be independent of all claptrap —should stand alone ...and appeal to the artistic sense of eye or ear, without confounding this with emotions entirely foreign to it, as devotion, pity, love, patriotism and the like."
James McNeill Whistler

Of course nobody ever went broke overestimating the audience's need for sentiment.

Margaret Keane painted many emotionally-manipulative paintings in
the 1960s that were attributed to her husband Walter.

So what is the opposite of sentimentalism?

Homage to the Square: La Tehuana by Josef Albers, 1951


Raoul Hausmann
Self-Portrait, 1920

Another modernist slogan was "Épater la bourgeoisie." (Shock the middle classes.)
[Pronounced ay‐pat‐ay luh boor‐zhwah-zee.]

LHOOQ by Marcel Duchamp, 1919

Or is Dada the opposite of sentimentalism? Dada is 
a meaningless word for art without meaning.
Art for the sake of art.

And here we have one of the great conflicts in modernism.
The majority of the audience likes to read a sentimental story into art. A minority, the avant-garde, considers sentimentality trite, manipulative and just uncool.

You know who you are.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Modern Print Monday: Maija Isola

Unikko (Poppy) by Maija Isola 

The poppy is an excellent example of how modernists manipulate scale and proportion.

Maija Isola (1927-2001) was a designer at the Finnish firm Marimekko where the boss's ban on floral prints inspired her to try one. The supergraphic poppy Unikko remains one of their most successful prints. Merrimekko translates as Mary's Dress or a Dress for Mary. It is not a proper name, although we all like to picture Marimekko as one talented designer who looks like Isola continuing to create innovative graphics.

See more about Maija Isola here:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Scale in Today's Modern Quilts

Modern Baby Quilt
by Barbara Perrino
Changes in scale can be surprising and thus eye-catching.

Ohio Supernova
by Heather Jones

One way to upset our visual sense of scale is to enlarge the block to cover the entire composition. This works whether the block is traditional...

Dream Catcher
by Karen at

Just Dandy by Vanessa Christenson

or innovative.

Color Conspiracy
by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr

Another way to focus the viewer on scale is to give us what looks like a cropped view of a whole composition.

Arches by Jess Berrett from Lark's 
Pretty in Patchwork Doll Quilts

Where's the rest of the circle?
Less is more here.

Life Savers by Lee Heinrich

Center City by Alissa Haight Carlton

Links to see more quilts by the artists shown here:
Barbara Perrino's Etsy shop

Heather Jones's Etsy shop

Vanessa Christenson's webpage

Ringle and Kerr

Lee Heinrich

Karen at Blooming Poppies

Alissa Haight Carlton

Jess Barrett's Arches