Australia, England, France
29 Apr 1875 - 28 May 1963
Printed in 1947 by Silk and Textile Printers, Sydney, for their Modernage Fabrics, this piece was produced in seven different colour schemes on fine wool fabric; a few examples were also printed on heavy rayon fabric.
(from Roger Butler, catalogue raisonné, 'The prints of Margaret Preston', NGA, 2005)
This fabric design resulted from a unique collaboration between Australian artists and the commercial textile industry during 1946-47. The enterprise was remarkable because it was then common practice to buy fabric designs from overseas for printing in Australia.
Claudio Alcorso director of Silk and Textile Printers, invited a large group of Australian artists to make designs for furnishings and fashion. After a trial run in 1946, the 'Modernage' range of fabrics was launched the following year and exhibited at Sydney's Hotel Australia, where girls dressed in some of the fabrics sold copies of the specially produced book 'A new approach to textile designing by a group of Australian artists', published by Sydney Ure Smith. The latter illustrated 46 designs by 33 artists with notes by each artist and essays by key figures in the enterprise, including Art Gallery of New South Wales director Hal Missingham. While some artists worked as though creating paintings, others like those shown here, gave greater consideration to the need for repetition of the design whilst preserving an overall unity of effect.
There was widespread publicity, with newspaper and magazine stories and displays in the windows of David Jones department store. The fabric range was displayed to similar acclaim in Melbourne, with subsequent tours to the USA and Canada. Despite both critical and popular acclaim however, it met with only limited commercial success, which Alcorso later attributed to a post-war climate of conservatism in Australia.
colour screenprint on wool
27.0 x 40.8 cm sight
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Claudio Alcorso 1971
Not on display
© Margaret Rose Preston Estate, licensed by Viscopy, Sydney
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Art in industry: as applied to textiles, Hotel Australia, Sydney, 02 Sep 1947–06 Sep 1947
Margaret Preston retrospective:
Referenced in 18 publications
Australian artists', Art and design, 'Textiles, pg. 31-31, Sydney, 1949, 30-31.
Deborah Edwards., Australian decorative arts, 'Australian decorative arts at the Art Gallery of New South Wales', Sydney, 1991, 1-4, 27.
Christopher Menz, Craft Australia, '1946. Modernage fabrics', pg. 72 - 77., Sydney, Summer 1987, 73 (illus.), 76.
Mollie Westhoven, Argus, 'Cut comes to industry', pg. 12-13, Melbourne, 15 Oct 1947, 12, 13.
Unknown, Margaret Preston: the art of constant rearrangement, Ringwood, 1985, 64 (colour illus.), 94. cat.no. F.1
The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Australian artists design new textile fabrics', pg. 13, Sydney, 12 Jun 1947, 13.
A New approach to textile designing, by a group of Australian artists, Sydney, 1947, 14 (colour illus.). plate no. 10
Roger Arthur Butler, The prints of Margaret Preston: a catalogue raisonné, Canberra, 2005, 290 (colour illus.). cat.no. 348
The crafts movement in Australia: a history, 'Chapter 5. The practitioners: 1940-1972', pg. 174-175 by Grace Cochrane., Sydney, 1992, 174-175, 419.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Art accent in textile show', pg. 13, Sydney, 21 Aug 1947, 13.
The Australian Womens Weekly, 'Well-known artists style fabrics', pg. 43-44, Sydney, Aug 1947, 43-44.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Display of fabrics' in 'Women's news', pg. 9, Sydney, 02 Sep 1947, 9.
Argus, 'Professor's praise for fabrics' in 'The life of Melbourne, pg. 3, Melbourne, 07 Oct 1947, 3.
Australian home budget, 'Artists', Sydney, Oct 1947, 5.
Artlink, vol.9, no.4, Summer 1989-90, 'Panel session: Claudio Alcorso: the experiment that failed', pg. 13-15, Adelaide, 1989, 13-15.
Deborah Edwards, Margaret Preston, 'An art for Australia from Australians 1940s-1950s', pg.173-250, Sydney, 2005, 234 (colour illus.).
One land, many stories, 'Margaret Preston', pg. 119, Melbourne, 2004, 119 (colour illus.).
Roger Arthur Butler, The prints of Margaret Preston: a catalogue raisonné, Canberra, 1987, 268 (colour illus.). cat.no. 348