JEAN LURÇAT

The new fab­ric col­lec­tion by Manuel Canovas puts the spot­light on this in­spir­ing ta­pes­try artist whose mag­i­cal pat­terns have time­less ap­peal

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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

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