The Department of Textiles has been very busy since 2004. They have acquired over 550 pieces as purchases and gifts since that year, and their new exhibition puts an intriguing selection on display. Divided between Western and non-Western pieces, the galleries include a surprising amount of glitz (with glass beads or gold and metal thread from 16th-century China to 1920s France), to caricature (a hilarious Saul Steinberg cartoon of horses screen-printed onto cotton), propaganda (various copper-plate engravings of 18th-and 19th-century current events in Britain on handkerchiefs and other fabric), to the ostentatiously simple (a luminous, though artificially dilapidated Mizugoromo robe made of hemp and worn by 18th-century Japanese Noh actors portraying the destitute, old women or ghosts), or simply sculptural (Reiko Sudo’s Origami Pleat is a multi-folded confection which becomes impressively three dimensional).
Visitors can learn much about the fabrication and function of these pieces, even across cultures, where dowries consistently included fine linens. The first room, which emphasizes the Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and higher-couture side of fabric production, includes a number of these versatile geometric and floral panels. An Alphonse Mucha designed panel c. 1898, Woman with a Daisy (top image), was intriguingly described as being meant to cover a screen when printed on cotton fabric (as in the Art Institute example), while it would cover a pillow instead when printed on more luxurious velveteen. The colors are already rich enough to make up for the difference in materials. This flexibility of printed designs on fabric is also seen in the 1925 Begonia print (image immediately above) by the couturier Paul Poiret, which was block printed on cloth (here it is on linen, but it has also appeared on paper and other materials) for use either as wall paper or wearable or upholstery fabric. He had been inspired by a recent visit to the Wiener Werkstätte in Vienna, setting up his own fabric workshop in Paris, and happily outfitted one of his barge showrooms in 1925 on the Seine in this material. Fabrics’ functions are hardly limited, even though modern ideas may suggest certain fabrics are more appropriate for certain uses. In one extreme example, the Canadian comedian Don Cherry has a penchant for suits made out of drapes fabric. He would have been right at home in Poiret’s amazing Begonia.
17 hours 48 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago #TBT 1924: An old favorite—The Art Institute included German Shepherds as part of our crackerjack security team from the 1920s until the 1940s. Here we see guard dogs Billo and Bella posing with their handler, along with a few paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
20 hours 57 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago TODAY—Admission is free to Illinois residents every Thursday evening from 5:00 to 8:00.
Join us for one of three events, including our American Sign Language gallery talk, a dramatic reading by actor Kelvin Roston Jr. from Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, and a lecture from our American Art Up Close series.
1 day 17 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago TOMORROW at 6:00—Join us for our latest Sign Language Gallery Talk, presented in ASL with voice interpretation.
Free to Illinois residents—http://bit.ly/247Imst