Thursday, September 29, 2011


Pages from the workbook of Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979)

Gentle teardrop motif in a textile pattern by Delaunay.
As with all textiles, it probably came in a number of color-ways.

Sonia Delaunay was a wonderful French artist whose modern designs in fabric for fashion and home decor were given an exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York, this past spring-summer. 

She is not particularly known for paisley design but this parade-rest teardrop pattern of hers is a treat and might remind one of the "buti" pattern in India where miniatures of the  motif  are repeated in rows.  In India, "buta" is used to describe the larger paisley. This larger paisley at times decorates the borders of a rectangular shawl while the rows of "buti" line up in the center portion.

Delaunay has explained that her repetition of motif was inspired by the quilting she had seen as a child in the houses of Russian peasants. However, motif repetition appears to be a very human experience in a variety of cultures.

The same New York summer that Delaunay's design patterns were on exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt, over on Fifth Avenue the work of  her famous husband Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) was part of a Guggenheim exhibit, "The Great Upheaval: Modern Art from the Guggenheim Collection, 1910-1918." Both Delaunays spent time focusing on their exploration of juxtaposed color and color's tone and depth (Orphism.)   Included in the Guggenheim exhibit was Robert Delaunay's brilliant Orphist-Cubist-Expressionist Eiffel Tower series. JP

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Departing for the Promenade/Will You Go Out With Me, Fido?
by Alfred Stevens, 1859, Philadelphia Museum.

Alfred Stevens (1823-1906), Belgian by birth, but Parisian by adoption, might be known as “the painter of paisley. He delighted in depicting modern women in fashionable contemporary dresses and elegant interiors. It may be difficult for us today to appreciate the originality of the genre Stevens invented for himself because he had a host of imitators. As his work was popular with American clients, many of his best works are to be found in museums in the United States.

In Departing for the Promenade, also known as Will you go out with me, Fido? (1859, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The W.P. Wilstach Collection, bequest of Anna H. Wilstach, 1893), a charming, dark-haired young woman is opening the door, but turns back towards the tiny white lap dog that follows at her feet. Over her dark velvet gown the graceful folds of a magnificent paisley shawl draw our attention. Stevens shows us exactly with what pretty gestures and elegant nonchalance this most prized of fashionable accessories was worn. The complex pattern of the shawl is contrasted with the strict geometry of the paneled wall and door. This bright, brilliantly patterned textile becomes the focus of the painting and a metaphor for the palette of colors with which the artist creates his illusions.

For Stevens, the eclipse of the paisley shawl must have been a melancholy turning point, depriving him of a motif he had made his own. For us, today, his paintings offer a vivid demonstration of the glamour of these colorful feminine garments that brought a note of oriental exoticism to the streets and salons of Paris during the heyday of the Second Empire.

Joan T. Rosasco, Ph.D.