Monday, October 20, 2014

Modern Print Monday: Roger Fry & the Omega Workshops

Roger Fry, Amenophis, 1913

Roger Fry (1866-1934), self-portrait

The first years of the 20th century were an exciting time for international trade in ideas, just before World War I put an end to free circulation of avant-garde notions between countries.

Englishman Roger Fry was responsible for a good deal of the international trade. An artist himself, he became an art critic and art historian, serving as Curator of European Painting at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art between 1904 and 1910.

Originally a specialist in Italian masters, he abandoned the distant past after seeing the work of Cezanne. He brought Post-Impressionists to London in a 1910 exhibit (He classified Manet, Gauguin and Van Gogh together and invented the name.)

Van Gogh is classified as a Post-Impressionist.

Their paintings shocked London in 1910.

Read the catalog here:

Édouard Manet, Portrait of Henri Bernstein's child, 1881

Many British artists were transformed, including writer Virginia Woolf who described the exhibition's effects: "On or about December 1910 human character changed."

Paul Gauguin, The Bathers, 1897

Omega Workshops, display for an Ideal Home
exhibit in 1913

Fry and his friends (many of who were classified as the Bloombury Group) incorporated the modernist ideas into their homes, adding murals to the walls, painted pattern to the furniture and painterly textiles as curtains, upholstery and floor coverings.

In 1913 Fry opened the Omega Workshops, similar to the Weiner Werkstatte and the Morris Workshop in dedication to the hand made and the modern. They sold their pottery, textiles and interior design sensibility to modern London.

Painter Duncan Grant's studio at Charleston, a house 
where Omega-style interior has been preserved.

Bloomsbury Rooms: Modernism, Subculture, and 
Domesticity by Christopher Reed

Christopher Reed, a later art historian, explains Omega style: "The group's first response to modern French paintings was to imagine them as places to inhabit."

Fire Screen by Duncan Grant

See an Omega-produced garment at the Victoria and Albert Museum website:

Westwind by Duncan Grant, 1931

Charleston sells Omega-designed prints today:

Read two previous posts on the prominent Omega designers below:

White by Vanessa Bell

Vanessa Bell

Duncan Grant


  1. Great eye candy plus history lesson. Thanks!

  2. How I love this part of art history! I was raised with it and there is always something to learn and to admire.
    Thanks Barbara!

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