Art by the Yard

Ever wish you could have your own a Picasso or a Matisse?

Well in the 1950s you could ...well kind of. 

It may not have been a masterpiece painting for your living room wall, but many famed artists took to designing fabric for a mass-produced market. This meant you could create drapes out of a Miro, cushions out of a Delaunay and a dress out of a  Dali!

Pablo Picasso, Toros y Toreros, (1963) for Bloomcraft Fabrics.  Salvador Dali, Number, Please? (1947). Textile for Wesley Simpson. © Courtesy Target Gallery / Fashion and Textile Museum London 

The list of artists who have dabbled in textiles is extremely impressive, with the likes of  Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marcel Vertes, Raoul Dufy, Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol and moreSeeing the possibility of bringing high art to the masses,  Fuller Fabrics ambitiously created the Modern Masters series in the mid 1950's. Through collaborating with top artists of the time you could now buy 'art by the yard' for as little as $1.50  a yard. At that price I probably would have brought whole rolls of fabric! Imagine the possibilities! Dresses, ties, shirts and in Warhol fruit or Picasso bulls? 

Henri Matisse, Escharpe No. 1, 1947, Marcel Vertes, Pennies from Heaven, c. 1946 © Courtesy Target Gallery / Fashion and Textile Museum London
As well as fabrics by the yard, many artists designed headscarves with Wesley Simpsons Custom fabrics. The greatest thing about these artists' textiles was the ability to surpass high art elitism and connect with the general public in a more informal way. The artists designed the fabric but it was up to you to decide how you want to use it, allowing the buyer to put there own spin on the 'artwork'. 

Fernand Leger and model Anne Gunning 1955
When art meets fashion it's an absolutely dynamic combination and I love seeing great fabric put to good use in gorgeous designs. Claire McCardell designed a resort collection using many of the artist designed Fuller Fabrics and in 1955 Life magazine photographed these designs back with the original artists at their studios. 

Model Ivy Nicholson with art by Marc Chagall, 1955.  Pablo Picasso and model Bettina Graziani 1955.
If you enjoy these stunning fabrics as much as I do, take a look at this cute little video about artist designed textiles in the 1940's.