The Mad Silkman. Zika & Lida Ascher: Textiles and Fashion
Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, Czech Republic
In response to the positive reception the exhibition The Mad Silkman. Zika & Lida Ascher: Textiles and Fashion has enjoyed in the Czech Republic and abroad, among scholars and the general public alike, the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague has decided to host an international conference. Experts from the United Kingdom, France, the United States, the Czech Republic and other countries have accepted invitations. Talks will be divided into sections covering history, art, textiles, fashion and current student projects. The conference will also look at migration and how it can contribute to society.
9 September 2019 – Monday
9:30–10:00 INTRODUCTION – OPENING THE CONFERENCE, GUESTS OF HONOUR
SECTION I: THE MAD SILKMAN EXHBITION
10:00–10:30 Dr Konstantina Hlaváčková (CZ), Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, curator and creator of the exhibition
Konstantina Hlaváčková is a graduate of the Department of Art History at Charles University’s Faculty of Arts. Since 1984 she has been a curator of the textiles collection at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, where she specialises in 20th-century textiles and fashion from the latter half of the 20th century. She also teaches at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. She is responsible for many of the Museum’s exhibitions and publications, including Mirror of the Times, Flowers in the Dustbin, Glamour, Outside and Inside and The Mad Silkman.
Zika Ascher: “Good Design Pays”
In 1950 the Design and Industries Association held a conference in London where Zika Ascher gave a speech on the importance of a product’s aesthetics for manufacturing and sales, and for man’s innate sense of beauty. In Czechoslovakia at this time Jindřich Chalupecký and Antonín Kybal, the country’s authorities on textiles manufacturing, had similar concerns, but although they had similar aims they were working with quite different ideological principles. While Ascher was operating in a free democracy, Czechoslovak designers had to conform to the new regime’s dogma.
10:30–11:00 Pavel Mrkus, MFA (CZ), Faculty of Art and Design, Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem, exhibition designer
Pavel Mrkus is an artist who creates audiovisual installations, site-specific projects and videos. In his work he examines how the virtual and real environments relate in the Anthropocene. With Daniel Hanzlík he set up the Time-Based Media Studio at Jan Evangelista Purkyně University’s Faculty of Art and Design.
The Museum Exhibition as a Contemporary Audiovisual Installation
Pavel Mrkus will talk about the exhibition’s planning, visual design and architecture, and its audiovisual elements. He will also look at how experimental contemporary art can function in conventional museum exhibitions to incorporate new approaches, such as the way the sculptural treatment of space can be combined with audiovisual elements to relate complex narratives.
COFFEE BREAK: 11:00–11:30
11:30–13:30 (an opportunity to visit the exhibition)
Film (20 minutes)
Documentary: For Those for Whom Tomorrow is Today, created for The Mad Silkman exhibition
director: Hedvika Hlaváčková, Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague
The film shows how after Zika and Lida Ascher left Prague in 1939 they built up a very successful fashion fabrics company in London, where the Ascher label became synonymous with textile design of the highest quality. French, British and Italian fashion houses used Ascher fabrics to create their collections.
SECTION II: JEWISH EMIGRATION IN THE LATE 1930S
13:30–14:00 Dr Anna Nyburg (GB), Imperial College London; Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies, University of London
As a committee member of the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies, her focus has been on refugee art publishing and book design, but also on other aspects of design, especially textile and clothes design.
Refugees from Nazism to Britain in the Textile and Fashion Trade
This lecture considers pre-war traditions in British clothing and textile production, and highlights the innovations that those fleeing from Central Europe would have brought with them in the 1930s. The lecture explores how the refugees managed to enter Britain and how they found work following the destruction of Jewish clothing companies in Germany. After the crucial wartime and post-war periods of consolidation, Britain could see how these refugees had revitalised technology, display, design, retail and illustration, in fact all areas of the textile trade.
14:00–14:30 Lisa Mason (GB), National Museums Scotland
Lisa Mason is Assistant Curator at National Museums Scotland. Her research interests include twentieth-century tapestry, post-war design, artist textiles and design archives. Lisa studied textile design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, and History of Art at the University of Edinburgh.
New and Bright and Living with Colour: the Fashion Textiles of Bernat Klein
Serbian-born textile designer Bernat Klein (1922–2014) emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1945 and established a textile manufacturing business in the Scottish Borders. Klein is best known for his bold approach to colour and his highly original fashion fabrics for the couture and ready-to-wear markets. By drawing upon the archive of Klein’s work held by National Museums Scotland, this paper will explore Klein’s design process and innovations in fashion textiles. It will also aim to situate Klein within the context of wider networks of émigré designers working in post-war Britain.
14:30–15:00 Dr Tomáš Kraus, Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic
Tomáš Kraus studied at Charles University’s Faculty of Law in Prague and formerly worked for Supraphon and Art Centrum. Since 1991 he has been the Secretary of the Federation of Jewish Communities. He works on the restitution of Jewish property and compensation for holocaust victims, and he is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Documentation Centre for Property Transfers of Cultural Assets of World War II Victims. He has taught at New York University and Western Michigan University in Prague.
The Jewish Community in Prague between the Wars
The first written mention of Jews in this country dates from the 10th century. Over the next millennium the Jewish community alternately flourished and faced persecution. The interwar years were unique: Czechoslovakia’s first president, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, had rejected Czech antisemitism during the Hilsner Affair, and the high esteem in which he was held set the tone for the First Republic. Tolerance and mutual respect helped the Jewish community integrate into society, and this period is associated with famous names such as Franz Kafka. However, these years of prosperity would again give way to tragedy.
15:00–15:30 Dr Eva Uchalová (CZ), Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague
Eva Uchalová studied art history at Charles University’s Faculty of Arts. Since 1981 she has been a curator of the textiles and fashion collection at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, where she specialises in the history of fashion up to 1948. She has produced numerous exhibitions and publications since 1989, including Czech Fashion 1918–1940: Elegance if the Czechoslovak First Republic, Prague Fashion Houses 1900–1948 and Hana Podolská, a Czech Fashion Legend.
Oldřich Rosenbaum/Oldric Royce – A Life in Fashion from Prague to New York
Oldřich Rosenbaum (1896–1991) was the owner of Prague’s most luxurious fashion house and part of the city’s Czech-Jewish-German milieu between the wars. He drew on Prague’s tradition of fine tailoring to expand the company that his mother had founded in 1881, and after he emigrated in 1938 he continued to work in fashion in the United States under the name Oldric Royce. In 1941 he founded a successful fashion company in New York that he ran until 1965. The company won numerous awards, and its clients included some of the richest women in America, as well as the wives of congressmen, senators and presidents, and famous actresses such as Ginger Rogers and Marlene Dietrich.
COFFEE BREAK 15:30–16:00
16:00 Film (45 minutes)
Documentary: Refuge Britain: Stories of Émigré Designers
made by Robert Sternberg, Director, co-produced with Anna Nyburg
This film explores the lives and work of three refugees to Britain from Nazism: Hans Schleger (graphic designer), Elisabeth Tomalin (print designer) and Tibor Reich (textile designer), as well as one contemporary refugee, the Pakistani textile designer Salah ud Din.
10 September 2019 – Tuesday
SECTION III: ARTIST COLLABORATIONS
9:00–9:30 Patrice Deparpe (F), Curator and Director, Musée Départemental Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambrésis
Patrice Deparpe is the Heritage Curator and Director of Musée Départemental Matisse, as well as the current President of the Association of Curators of the Museums of Hauts-de-France (the region has 87 museums in total). His career began in 1991 at Musée Quentovic, an archaeological museum in Étaples, before he was appointed the Director of an art museum, Musée du Touquet-Paris-Plage (1994–2009). In 2010 he joined Musée Départemental Matisse and has been its Director since 2014.
Le Cateau-Cambresis, Henri Matisse’s birthplace, owes much of its reputation to the historical prosperity of its textile industry. Coming from a family of weavers who had lived in the city for more than 300 years, Matisse grew up in an environment full of colours and shapes that would later influence the decorative aspects of his work. Throughout his life Matisse collected textiles and draperies from all over the world. He created costumes for Sergei Diaghilev, chasubles for the Chapel of Vence, and his paper cut-outs, which would revolutionise artistic creation, are derived from his practical knowledge of tailoring. This paper will discuss the importance of textiles in Matisse’s art.
9:30–10:00 Sue Prichard (GB), Royal Museums Greenwich; Victoria & Albert Museum
Sue Prichard is Senior Curator: Arts at Royal Museums Greenwich. Her current research projects include Royal Garden Retreats: Power, Performance and Domestic Virtues; “Disobedient Uniforms”: Making and Mending in Naval Uniforms 1850–1970 and Sailors’ Craft: Maritime Making in the Long 19th Century.
Henry Moore and Zika Ascher: “Can Painters Design Textiles?”
Henry Moore’s numerous designs for textiles remain relatively unknown. Very few of these designs went into full production, yet an examination of the small samples and sketches in Moore’s archive are testament to the extraordinary relationship between the artist and Zika Ascher. This paper will examine this relationship, unique among Ascher’s other collaborations with international artists, set against the backdrop of post-war Britain. It will also provide insight into the importance of these designs within Moore’s own domestic landscape.
10:00–10:30 Dr Juliet Kinchin (USA), The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Juliet Kinchin joined the Museum of Modern Art in 2008 as curator of modern design. Previously she had worked as a curator in Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries, and at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, and she held faculty positions at the Glasgow School of Art, the Bard Graduate Center in New York and the University of Glasgow, where she was the Founding Director of the graduate program in Design History.
Artistic Textiles in the Museum of Modern Art, New York
Textiles and the adjacent practices of architecture, painting, drawing and sculpture have long had a close affinity, especially in the early to late 20th-century when there was a concerted move to emphasise the underlying unity of all art forms, and to connect modern art with industry and daily life. Woven things appeared at the forefront of ongoing debates around abstraction, the total work of art and the fusion of art with technology, challenging the widespread marginalisation of textiles as “women’s work”. This lecture examines artistic textiles that have featured in New York’s Museum of Modern Art since the museum first opened its doors to the public in 1929.
10:30–11:00 Dr Lucie Vlčková (CZ), Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague
Lucie Vlčková is an art historian who has authored many exhibitions, publications and research projects. She is a curator of the Museum’s graphic design collection, and she specialises in art and design from the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century in the broader cultural context.
Antonín Kybal – Printed Textiles for Interiors in the Late 1930s
Antonín Kybal was one of the most prominent Czech textile artists and designers of the 20th century. In the 1930s he was particularly active in home furnishings, and towards the end of the decade he was appointed artistic director of Krásná jizba, which at the time was the most influential manufacturer and retailer of home furnishings. There he helped innovate the use of furnishing fabrics. The inexpensive printed textiles with bold patterns that he designed were popular with customers and noted architects alike, and they transformed interiors across the social spectrum.
COFFEE BREAK/LUNCH: 11:00–13:00
SECTION IV: TEXTILES AND FASHION
13:00–13:30 Professor Lesley Miller (GB), Victoria & Albert Museum; University of Glasgow
Lesley Miller is Senior Curator of Textiles and Fashion at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London and Professor of Dress and Textile History at the University of Glasgow. Her most recent books are Selling Silks. A French Merchant’s Sample Book of 1764 (2014) and Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion (2017).
Textile Manufacturers and Haute Couture
In the mid-20th century couturiers often expressed the important role of high-quality, innovative textiles in the creation of their new lines, while fashion magazines relayed much information on such textiles to followers of fashion. This paper discusses the complex network of commercial exchange and personal friendship between fashion designers and their textile suppliers by examining archival evidence, private correspondence, oral testimony and of course textiles themselves. Particular reference will be made to the couturiers Dior and Balenciaga and to the manufacturers Bianchini-Férier (Lyons), West Cumberland Mills/Sekers (Whitehaven, Cumbria), and Ascher Ltd. (London).
13:30–14:00 Dr Christine Boydell (GB), De Montford University
Christine Boydell is Senior Honorary Research Fellow at De Montfort University, where she lectured for seventeen years. She is a design historian with a special interest in the history of 20th-century fashion and textiles. She has curated a number of exhibitions including Horrockses Fashions: Off the Peg Style in the ’40s and ’50s (2010) and Riviera Style: Resort and Swimwear Since 1900 (2015), both held at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London. She has worked as a consultant for Leicestershire Museums and Keele University.
Horrockses Fashions and Cotton Ready to Wear
Horrockses Fashions was one of the most well respected ready-to-wear labels of the late 1940s and 1950s, established in 1946 as a subsidiary of Horrockses, Crewdson & Company Limited to sell their cotton cloth. At the time the use of cotton for fashionable clothing was unusual: generally it was associated with cheap clothing, sheets and children’s wear, while silk was the fabric of choice for haute couture, with rayon favoured for ready-to-wear. The paper explores the strategies adopted by Horrockses Fashions to transform cotton’s fortunes.
14:00–14:30 Andrea Březinová, MA (CZ), Moravian Gallery in Brno
Andrea Březinová is a curator of the textiles collection at the Moravian Gallery in Brno. She specialises in the history of Brno’s wool industry and 20th-century fashion, together with contemporary aspects of fashion design. With Tomáš Zapletal she edited the book Brno – moravský Manchester and curated an exhibition of the same name.
Brno – Moravian Manchester
Like Manchester, Brno was dominated by the textile industry. The city’s textiles collection was founded in 1873 on the initiative of the city’s most successful industrialists in the wool trade. As the Moravian capital Brno attracted many experts from abroad, and they eventually built dozens of wool mills here. Most fabrics were woven for menswear, where both high-quality woollen fabrics and inexpensive goods were in demand and production was oriented to export. After Czechoslovakia was founded Brno’s wool companies began specialising in quality suiting materials.
14:30–15:00 Dr Vlastimil Havlík (CZ), University of Hradec Králové
Vlastimil Havlík worked as a textiles curator while lecturing at the University of Hradec Králové, where he has now held a teaching post since 2018. He also lectures at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. He covers art history in the Czech Lands, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as economic and social history (primarily the history of the textile industry).
Artist Collaborations with Josef Sochor’s Textile Factory in Dvůr Králové nad Labem
Josef Sochor opened a weaving mill in 1904, followed in 1910 by a mechanical print-works. In Czechoslovakia during the First Republic only a few textile companies worked with artists, and Sochor’s company was the leader in this field. In the 1920s artists such as František Kysela and Jaroslav Benda began designing for Sochor, followed in the 1930s, when screen printing was introduced, by Jan Beneš, Josef Čapek, Alois Fišárek, Marie Fišerová-Kvěchová, Antonín Kybal, Emilie Paličková-Mildeová, Vladimír Sychra, Toyen, Jiří Trnka, Jaroslava Vondráčková and other artists. In 1936 the company recruited Alois Wachsman for the new post of artistic consultant for textile printing. After Wachsman’s death in 1942 he was briefly succeeded by Alois Fišárek.
COFFEE BREAK 15:00–15:30
SECTION V: TEXTILE STUDIOS AT THE ACADEMY OF ARTS, ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN IN PRAGUE
15:30–16:00 Markéta Vinglerová, MA (CZ), Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague
Markéta Vinglerová is an art historian who since 2016 has been a curator at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, where she specialises in 20th-century textiles in the context of contemporary art. She graduated in history of art from Charles University’s Faculty of Arts and also studied in the Textile Design Studio at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, where she subsequently worked as an assistant.
“Living and Working as an Artist”. Textile Teaching at the School of Decorative Arts/Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague
When the School of Decorative Arts was founded in 1885 it had two textile departments (the Textiles School and the Artistic Embroidery School). This talk will examine how textiles were taught during the First Republic as part of the new country’s visual style, and will also look at the role these textile studios played after World War II in manufacturing and the renaissance of tapestry. Through prominent people at the Academy since 1946, we will see how the studio influenced new generations of textile artists and designers.
16:00–16:30 Pavel Ivančic, MFA (CZ), Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague
Pavel Ivančic is a fashion designer and the head of the Fashion Design Studio at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. He is a graduate of Central Saint Martins in London. In 2016 he won the main prize at the International Fashion Showcase in London for his work as the curator of an installation called The Last Fata Morgana. He also works as a consultant for the European Commission’s WORTH project.
The Ascher Challenge project
The Ascher Challenge collection is the result of a project by the Fashion Design Studio at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, where thanks to the generosity of Peter and Robin Ascher students had an opportunity to work with original fabrics from the Ascher archive. The outcome was a special fashion collection to accompany The Mad Silkman exhibition. By combining these colourful original fabrics and scarves with modern materials and technologies, the students came up with unique designs that present the legacy of the past as viewed by today’s younger generation in a new context.
16:30–17:00 Jitka Škopová, MFA (CZ), Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague
Jitka Škopová’s career has embraced various aspects of textiles. Since 2009 she has headed the Textile Design Studio at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. She is interested in reforms and experiments in the field by incorporating technical fabrics, materials research and visionary ideas.
New Perpectives for Textiles
The market is constantly introducing new smart materials, while technological developments offer new opportunities for designing, making and using textiles. Textile designers, thanks to their knowledge of the materials and techniques, are in a unique position to exploit these new opportunities. Student projects show what can be done with contemporary developments, and they explore how textiles can be combined with architecture, design, fashion and art, and how raw materials can be reappraised to introduce a more responsible approach. Individual items also pay tribute to traditional craftsmanship and techniques, while innovation comes in the form of the design itself.