Picasso Didn't Want To Be 'Sat On'

'A Fish is a Fish is a Fish', designed by the painter and designer Ken Scott in 1951.  Originally printed on dress  and upholstery fabric by W. B. Quaintence in NYC.  On view at The American Textile History Museum's exhibit, "Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol," through March 29th.

Spoonflower, Picasso, Chagall and Art for the Masses

Have you tried Spoonflower, the online store that allows you to design and print fabric, wallpaper and gift wrap?

This was literally art by the yard for the masses, something very close to Picasso’s political beliefs, which may well have influenced his decision to take part in the project and to persuade others to do so.
— from the book TEXTILE DESIGN, Artist Textiles: 1940-1976

They don't (yet) allow you to produce knits, but I find it incredible that now everyone can try their hand at graphic design and commercial printing.  Online.  Without fancy machines or a huge printing press or textile printer.  Voilà - I can be my own designer and Jo-Ann Fabric Store, right at home or in my private studio.

This is Picasso's version of the 'Fish Print' fabric, which was designed as part of the Fuller Fabric collaboration in 1955.  (Someone else, Claire McCardell, designed the actual dress.)

I can't help wondering what masters like Chagall and Picasso thought when they saw their work wrapped around middle class bodies instead of hanging with such pomp and circumstance in galleries and posh homes.

To be fair - the collaborations highlighted in the Artist Textiles Exhibit weren't exactly Spoonflower - that's pretty insulting.  But back in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, there was a definite revolution in how we thought about art, access to art, technology and distribution networks.

It was Reeves Lewenthal - the owner of Associated American Artists (AAA) gallery - who was the savvy entrepreneur responsible for breaking down a lot of these barriers in art, culture and mass consumption.  In 1955 he collaborated with Fuller Fabrics for a 'Modern Master Prints' series, with textiles from Picasso, Dufy, Chagall, Miró and Léger

Technology also played a role: Fuller Fabrics and Lewenthal agreed to use roller printing in order to produce yardage in significant quantities at a low price.  The ultimate goal was to sell in the lower-tier range of between $1.49 and $1.98/yard, something they could not do using the more labor-intensive silk screen printing process.  By the way, in current 2015 dollars this translates to only $13-$18/yard.  My favorite special touch included in this series: the signature of the artist along the selvedge.

Miró's 'Dancing Figures,' designed with Fuller Fabrics and manufactured in 1955.

Picasso did balk at one part of the scheme to commercialize his art: he refused to have his work printed on upholstery fabric!  A few decades later during another collaboration he refused to have prints of his work on sofas.  Here's the famous quote: "Picasso may be leaned against but not sat on."  I love this.

I've included a images of several of the 1955 Fuller collaboration textiles.  The Chagall in particular looks so painterly to me. 

I wonder how the painters worked through the shift to repeating motifs and negative space in large panels of wallpaper and miles of fabric?  This is such a challenge in my own design process.  It looks one way in the sketchbook, but then when repeated the design changes completely.  Supposedly the collaborations between the painters, Fuller and the technical staff was quite intensive.  What a shame there's no record - visual or otherwise - of how this process evolved.

Tomorrow I'll finish up with a view of the Pop Art fabrics from the 1960s and 70s, including fabrics designed by Warhol.

Hope everyone is staying warm!  Last night the snowplows around here worked overtime to clear yet another foot+ of snow off the roads.  This meant only a two-hour school delay instead of a cancellation.  Fantastic!

Chagall's 'Belle Fleurs,' produced with Fuller Fabrics.