The new fabric collection by Manuel Canovas puts the spotlight on this inspiring tapestry artist whose magical patterns have timeless appeal
This spring, fabric brand Manuel Canovas unveils a new collection inspired by the work of French artist Jean Lurçat (1892–1966), who is credited with resurrecting the craft of tapestry in early 20th-century France. His colourful designs, influenced by Surrealism, were woven in the town of Aubusson, famed for its weaving industry. ‘I have always admired Lurçat – he was original and broke boundaries,’ says Ariane Dalle, design director at Manuel Canovas. ‘The tapestries he created in the 1940s have been the main source of inspiration for our new collection, and in particular the ‘ Vadim’ fabric (pictured). This pattern of stylised leaves has been woven like a tapestry and the ‘Cyprès’ colourway emulates the greens used in 17th-century verdure [ garden] tapestries.’
From 1911, when Lurçat enrolled as a student at the École de Nancy, he was exposed to a melting pot of influences – the art school was the wellspring of the Art Nouveau movement. By the 1920s in Paris, Lurçat had established a coterie of friends, including the painter Paul Cézanne and poet Rainer Maria Rilke. He exhibited his Expressionist paintings alongside works by Pablo Picasso and Raoul Dufy. Meanwhile, his fascination with tapestry grew. Other artists of the time, including Picasso and Salvador Dalí, also experimented with the medium, but Lurçat seems to have got there first, making his earliest piece in 1917 and returning to the loom time and again. The otherworldly designs he composed, decorated with strange creatures, sunbursts and glowing stars, are tinged with mysticism. They were influenced by his travels in revolutionary Spain, Africa and the Middle East, as well as by Surrealist paintings.
Lurçat’s passion for tapestry lasted for the rest of his life. In 1961, he established the International Centre of Ancient and Modern Tapestry in Lausanne, Switzerland, which championed the work of innovative weavers for the following three decades. At the time of his death in 1966, he was working on an ambitious 500-square-metre design named The Song of the World, inspired by the famous medieval Apocalypse Tapestry and depicting the artist’s vision of the 20th century. It now hangs in the Museum of Jean Lurçat and Contemporary Tapestry (musees.angers.fr) in Angers, where you can see many more artefacts from his career. And, thanks to Manuel Canovas, you can now experience Lurçat’s magic at home, too. manuelcanovas.com