Frederick Etchells

Frederick Etchells’s Ideal Home Exhibition Rug, 1913, was presented at Textiles Hub London’s in October 2013 as part of The Geometrics exhibition and symposium, The Geometrics: Volume 1, co-curated by Textiles Hub London director Emma Neuberg and British curator Daisy McMullan.

The Ideal Home Exhibition Rug is an important and rare example of the convergence of Vorticism and Modernism in a contemporaneous design for interiors. The bold yellow grid and diamond motifs float across the composition in an abstracted motion that predates Piet Mondrian, Alexander Calder, the Memphis group and Michael Graves. The blue and pink framing of the composition echoes Japonerie and African art of the nineteenth century and before.

Etchells’s work was presented and discussed by McMullan in her role as curatorial assistant at ChelseaSpace Gallery at Chelsea College of Art & Design (at the University of the Arts London) which houses part of the Etchells archive.

Etchells (1886 – 1973) was central to the Vorticist and Modernist movements of early twentieth century British art. By presenting this artwork, Textiles Hub London celebrated the centenary of the birth of the Omega Workshops. The Omega Workshops was Roger Fry‘s project, inspired by the successful Wiener Werkstatte in Belle Epoque Austria to garner interest in the Bloomsbury Group’s painters and associates, their gesamtkunstwerk and monetize these through applied arts. The Ideal Home Exhibition Rug was one of Etchells’s final designs for the Omega Workshops before his falling out with Roger Fry and other members of the group. Some of the sketches for this design are housed at the Courtauld Gallery in London. Interestingly, the gouache design is annotated by Duncan Grant with whom Etchells sometimes collaborated.

Etchells went on to become an important and rare British modernist architect and so the reference to Michael Graves draws a straight line from the featured design here and Graves’ celebrated buildings in the US in the latter twentieth century.

McMullan’s paper was proceeded by a talk by Dr Alexandra Gerstein, curator of Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Courtauld Gallery, called The Free Geometry of Omega Workshops, 1913-1919.

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