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.
screenprint on cotton
44.5 x 80.0 cm sight; 52.9 x 88.3 cm frame
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Claudio Alcorso 1971
Not on display
© Bathurst Regional Council
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Art in industry: as applied to textiles, Hotel Australia, Sydney, 02 Sep 1947–06 Sep 1947
Jean Bellette retrospective (2004-2005):
- Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, Bathurst 10 Dec 2004–16 Jan 2005
- S.H. Ervin Gallery, The Rocks 12 Mar 2005–15 Apr 2005
- University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane 06 May 2005–12 Jun 2005
- Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Mornington 12 Jul 2005–28 Aug 2005
- Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra 10 Nov 2005–18 Dec 2005
Referenced in 13 publications
Australian artists', Art and design, 'Textiles, pg. 31-31, Sydney, 1949, 30-31.
Professor Joseph Burke, The Australian home beautiful, "Australian artists create new textiles', pg. 7-9, Melbourne, Sep 1947.
Deborah Edwards., Australian decorative arts, 'Australian decorative arts at the Art Gallery of New South Wales', Sydney, 1991, 1-4, 27. cat.no. 141
Christopher Menz, Craft Australia, '1946. Modernage fabrics', pg. 72 - 77., Sydney, Summer 1987, 71-77.
Mollie Westhoven, Argus, 'Cut comes to industry', pg. 12-13, Melbourne, 15 Oct 1947, 12, 13.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Art accent in textile show', 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, 15 Oct 1947, 3.
Australian home budget, 'Artists', Sydney, Oct 1947, 5 (illus.).
A New approach to textile designing, by a group of Australian artists, 'Vision and confidence in art for textiles', pg. 8-32, Sydney, 1947, 26 (illus.), 40. plate no. 33
The crafts movement in Australia: a history, 'Chapter 5. The practitioners: 1940-1972', pg. 174-175 by Grace Cochrane., Sydney, 1992, 174-175, 419.
Artlink, vol.9, no.4, Summer 1989-90, 'Panel session: Claudio Alcorso: the experiment that failed', pg. 13-15, Adelaide, 1989, 13-15.