Leigh Wishner, Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum
Alexander Calder (America, 1898–1976) for Laverne Originals ‘Contempora’ Series Calder #1, 1949 Screen-printed cotton plain weave Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 7065.127.2015
Join us as Ms Wishner fashions a captivating tale of the rise of artist designed textiles in America. In 1955, the American firm D.B. Fuller & Co. launched the “Modern Master” series of printed cottons and rayons. These artistic fabrics—sixty in all—were the result of Daniel Fuller’s collaboration with five of the European contemporary art world’s most famous names: Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, and Raoul Dufy (Georges Braque and Paul Klee were included in 1956). These household-name artists’ participation in Fuller Fabrics’ design process and marketing was enthusiastic and without selfish motivation—they delighted in providing a democratic, affordable entrée into art connoisseurship.
Fuller’s campaign was not the first of its kind, but one of the most prominent in a broader trend in mid-century apparel and furnishing fabrics. European and American luminaries Salvador Dalí, Giorgio de Chirico, Marcel Vertès, Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis, Saul Steinberg, Rockwell Kent, Andy Warhol, and a multitude of talented but lesser-known artists all designed textiles that are especially sought after today. Major initiatives by the Midtown Gallery and the Associated American Artists group, both in New York City, were significant partnerships with well-established textile firms to bring “fine art by the yard” to all. These textiles were promoted through trade publications, advertisements and editorials in mainstream periodicals, by museums and department stores, and by use in fashionable clothing and interior schemes.
Using Fuller’s ‘Modern Master’ series as an in-depth case study, this colorfully illustrated lecture examines the intersection of commerce and art in American post-war consumerism. Major museum collections, archival research, and primary source material provide insights into a dynamic period when design and artistry were deemed crucial to the daily lives of everyone in America, not just the wealthiest or most erudite individuals.
Leigh Wishner is Museum Coordinator at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum, Los Angeles. From 2012–2017, she served as a Curatorial Assistant in the Costume and Textiles department at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Before returning to California, Ms. Wishner was an associate at Cora Ginsburg LLC, a New York gallery specializing in antique textiles and clothing, for over ten years. Her background includes a B.A. in Art History and Archaeology from Barnard College, New York and a M.A. in Decorative Arts/Fashion and Textile History from Bard Graduate Center, New York. Ms. Wishner has presented papers at Costume Society of America and Textile Society of America national symposia; most recently, she was invited to speak at and participate in the panel discussion Designed for Living: Mid-Century American Textiles at New York University and at FIDM Museum’s Fashion Council luncheon, offered in conjunction with their exhibition Sun-Drenched Style: California Mid-Century Women Designers.