Recommended: Artist Textiles exhibition

If you're thinking of a summer jaunt, the exhibition "Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol" at the Textile Museum of Canada, is worth the trip; you'll be dazzled. My friend Jude generously gave me a ticket, and I was joined by another friend, Susan, whose birthday we ritually celebrate with a lunch and outing.

Over 200 works of artist-designed fabrics, shown as garments, swatches, scarves and hangings, trace the 20th century in textiles. Organized by the Fashion and Textile Museum of London, the exhibition has toured in the US in 2014, and is showing in Toronto through October 4, 2015.

"C'est pareil" fabric by Joan Miró
Susan and I were in textile heaven, ambling and exclaiming in the company of perhaps a dozen other patrons. You're allowed so close to the pieces that you can see each thread, a treat if you've ever tried to examine a brocade behind the glass of the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute.

That exhibit elevated my textile eye, lulled most days by pedestrian to only-decent fabrics. Not everything shown was couture level; we were especially charmed by a selection of day dresses from the English dressmaker Horrockses:




and a piece of upholstery fabric, in the whimsical "Wedding" pattern by Saul Steinberg:




When the exhibition was shown at Textile Museum in Lowell, MA, WGBH-TV in Boston produced a four-minute spot. Take a whirl through some of the highlights:




Amid textile-loving bees scooping their woven nectar, a British visitor in an especially exuberant print of scarlet, yellow and pink hollyhocks told us, "I'm here for fourteen days and I brought sixteen dresses!" 

The exhibition's companion book, "Artist's Textiles, 1940-1976", is available through the Textile Museum of Canada's Gift Shop (price, $CAN 40), or on Amazon.

7 comments

lagatta à montréal said...

Utterly lovely and what a treat to see the fibres close up. I'll definitely make time to get there if I happen to be visiting Toronto while the exhibit is on. For people unfamiliar with Toronto, it is in the downtown core, near the City Hall.

LauraH said...

Thanks for posting on the exhibit, it will go on my summer list of things-to-do-when-it's-too-hot-to-garden.

materfamilias said...

That looks fabulous! And you're right -- it's so unusual to be able to get close enough to see what's on display. We loved the button exhibition at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs last month, but between the dark lighting and the glass cases, sometimes it was tough to appreciate what we were looking at.
Trying to figure if I could fit in a "jaunt" to Toronto and Montreal this summer -- looking unlikely -- and whether, if I got there, I could stand the heat and humidity. High 20s here this week, and even with the seaside breeze I'm wilting!

Beth said...

Oh, scrumptious!! I wish I'd been there, and am especially intrigued by the blue print behind the red-and-white dress. As someone who has sewn a lot, I deplore the decline in fabric quality and selection for home sewers, not only in ready-to-wear clothing. I follow quite a few sewing blogs, and there's a resurgence of interest among young women, and some better sources by mail order - still, I really miss the days when every town had a good fabric store with pure cottons, silks, linens and wools that had been dyed or printed with lovely, non-garish, non-muddy, interesting colors. As in market-shopping for food, the textiles themselves often inspired the eventual clothing that I made. I sew a lot less now, partly because of lack of time but also because I don't come across fabric that makes me want to bring it home and wear it forever! (p.s., I really want a red print dress!)

LPC said...

Delicious. I have always loved fabrics, but never really knew that I love them until recently. These are so full of meaning.

Bunny said...

The matching on the red Horrocks is positively divine and takes my breath away. What we could learn from just that one garment, not couture, but made when manufacturers cared about their designs!

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous array of designs you've shown us. Wish I could see more of them. Well, maybe I'll have to purchase the catalogue instead of another trip to Toronto this year.
And thanks for the video too.
It's all divine.
I agree with Bunny's comments about when manufacturing was of a high level and not just for the rich and materfamilias' comments about dim lighting and distance from the displays so that you cannot really see what you're supposed to be looking at. Displays in London, England are notorious for that. I felt as though I were swimming underwater a lot of the time. The worst was the Isabella Blow show in 2014, the rooms were very dark and the mannequins were in translucent niches which were backlit so you really couldn't see the clothes at all. It was utterly maddening.
But it seems that the Textile Museum has it together and that everything is beautifully visible. Well done, Textile Museum.
Vancouver Barbara