Monday, September 8, 2014

Modern Print Monday: Lida and Zika Ascher

Art Square by Ben Nicholson for Ascher London Ltd.

Lida and Zika Ascher

Lida Tydlitat Ascher (d. 1983) and Zikmund (Zika) George Ascher (1910-1992) 

Ascher Ltd. (London)  was an important British fabric company
during World War II and in the post-War years

 Princess Diana in an Ascher silk-screened
print in the 1980s. The Victoria and Albert Museum
has the actual shirt in their collection.

Silk screening is a form of stencil printing in which dye and mordants
are forced through a masked screen. Here an Ascher employee or perhaps Zika himself
is using a large squeegee to press the chemicals onto the fabric, hand printing
the design.

Ascher Art Square, scarf by Robert Colquhoun 

Silk screening (done by machines rather than by hand) is the major technique used in printing fabric
today.At Moda my screened reproduction prints tend to imitate old-fashioned cylinder printing, but the mid-
century look of an Ascher art square embraces the look of silk screen technology.

Family Group by Henry Moore
Sculptor Henry Moore enjoyed a production relationship with Ascher Ltd.
See a post I wrote on his fabric here:

Lida Ascher with a repeat print.
She was one of the firm's designers.

The Aschers were Czech, married in 1939. While they honeymooned in Norway Hitler invaded their homeland. They sought refuge in London, where they opened a textile business, adapting fabric design to war-time austerity, printing without traditional metal technology on rayon and other new fibers.

They commissioned artists famous in other mediums to design Ascher Art Squares, rayon scarves. Above,
a scarf by Jean Cocteau is featured on the cover of a 1988 catalog from the Victoria & Albert by
Valerie D. Mendes.

Art square by Jean Hugo. Designed in 1947. Printed
about 1960.

Zika's obituary noted that critic Sacheverell Sitwell described the Aschers' work as "a revolution in industrial design", while others characterized them as "weird distortions . . . fit only to be worshipped by art devotees".

 Picture of wartime London by Feliks Topolski, wool, dated 1944

These Art Squares in rayon, wool or post-War silks
are quite collectible. They are usually signed by the designer
and the company.

Jill Wiltse and H. Kirk Brown III have an impressive collection of scarves from the 1940s and '50s. They recently showed many in a Denver exhibit The Printed Square: International Fashion Scarves Dressing Up a War.

The Aschers grandson Sam Ascher has re-introduced a few scarf designs such as Landscape Sculpture by Barbara Hepworth.

Another recent re-issue is this rectangular scarf of a 1946 repeat print by Gerald Wilde called On the Wilde Side,. See a picture of Princess Elizabeth wearing a dress of the print in this post:


  1. Thanks so much for these posts. I get my art history lessons here!

    1. So do I. I see something interesting then I have to read about it.