The Edwardians at the NGA

Yesterday afternoon we toddled off to see the Edwardians exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia. The online site is comprehensive as it has 147 images online of paintings, sculptures and objects in the exhibit. This means you can share a little of it with me.

For those interested in costume design and its history the Lohengrin cloak was stunning. Dame Nellie Melba certainly commissioned a glorious piece here. It is hand embroidered with heavy detailing in goldwork. What the photograph online can not capture is that this piece is made of gold silk shot with green. The motifs on the cloak are hand embroidered in satin stitch and long and short stitch and the Angels in large disks around the base are hand painted on silk. All the border work is couched gold thread.

Theatre costume is also represented in the exhibit. For anyone interested in what is termed today as ‘wearable art’ this hooped robe designed by a Alexander Golovin will be of interest.

Contemporary surface designers will also be interested in another theatre costume on exhibit designed by a fellow Russian Leon Bakst, Costume for a brigand. The strong geometric design is also stenciled on the woolen garment.

A design for a fan by Charles Condor is included in the exhibition I had not realised he had created these designs. Online it looks a soft and gentle piece which since it is a watercolour on silk you would expect but when examined up close you sense the artist was used to using watercolour on paper. Condor is considered a master and he is in his element on paper. I sensed a struggle with painting on silk which was a bit of a relief to likes of me as painting on silk is very different to painting on paper because fabric has a weave. In the top section of the fan I sensed a battle with the medium had taken place. On the whole Condor had won but the scars are there.

Thea Proctor however seems to have not had the same battle. She also created fan designs and she used the space of the fan well. Have a look at her composition. I immediately saw a fan design that would work. Fans are not always held open. In fact there was a whole language of fans employed by flirtatious women. Imagine this design half open from the right and then half open from the left either side would work as a design which is not necessarily the case with Condors design his design is divided in the centre. Obviously he was a man that did not read the signals!

An artist that enjoyed the challenge of designing within a fan shape is Charles Shannon This is a Lithograph and since it was created in a era when the class divide was extreme I found this piece hefty. It is not a about flirtation or seduction there is a solid statement here. You will see what I mean if you compare this design to Arthur Streeton’s.

A very different fan is by Arthur Streeton who apparently admired Charles Conder’s fan designs and produced the Five dancers fan in 1915 while he was an orderly in the first world war.

What did I enjoy about the Edwardians? The fact that although painting and sculpture dominated the decorative arts and particularly some textiles were included so often they are not.

Contemporary textile artist Deanne Fitzpatrick

Deanne Fitzpatrick creates hooked rugs from recycled wool cloth that has been cut into strips.

Rug hooking like many domestic textile crafts comes from a tradition of poverty. Although Deannes’s mother and grandmother both created rugs driven by financial need, Deanne is driven to make rugs by different need. That of expressing the stories and ideas that are important to her in her life and the community in which she resides.

Growing up in Freshwater, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland her work reflects the community values she was exposed to. Those elements being simplicity and tradition. Part of that tradition is story telling. Before selecting key elements within a tale to represent the narrative Deanne Fitzpatrick gathers her stories from people in community and uses a journal to capture them. Deanne also keeps a Rug Hooking Diary online

Illustrated here is one of Deanne Fitzpatrick’s pieces on her site ‘The Salt Water Dance’. Deanne Fitzpatrick’s site houses information on designing, planning and making hooked rugs. Much of her ideas about designing and choosing imagery is of wider interest. Check out her gallery area I think her imagery will at least make you smile in thoughtful recognition.