Famous Art Deco Textile Designers

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Do you like clothing with bold and colorful designs? Have you ever seen a large rug woven in geometric patterns? Perhaps these pieces were influenced by Art Deco textiles. In this lesson, learn about some famous Art Deco textile designers.

What is Art Deco?

Art Deco is the name given to a style that became very popular in Europe and America following an international design and style show in Paris in 1925. The artists, designers and architects who worked in Art Deco wanted to create a modern style for a modern age and bring about more cohesiveness in fine and decorative arts. As it grew in popularity, Art Deco became influential in everything from household appliances and furniture to textiles. But before we discuss textile design, let's cover some general style background.

Art Deco celebrated the modern world and industry. It used new industrial materials like stainless steel, plate glass, and Bakelite, a type of plastic. The qualities of these materials, with their smooth crisp edges, enabled them to be filtered into all sorts of designs. Art Deco featured bold colors and high contrasts. It was also influenced by Cubism, an art movement in which shapes were portrayed as fragmented with multiple perspectives viewable at the same time. Popular design elements in Art Deco included geometric shapes like pyramids, zigzags and lightning bolts, as well as stylized images from nature like waterfalls and palm tree leaves.

Example of a dress in Art Deco style. Notice the bold geometry and color contrast with green and gold
Arrow of Gold dress by Poiret

As a style used in fine and decorative art, Art Deco found its way into textile design, where artists and designers created patterns for clothing, upholstery and household goods. Now let's learn more about a few famous designers.

Famous Art Deco Textile Designers

Raoul Dufy

Raoul Dufy (1877 - 1953) was a French artist who came to prominence in textile design through his collaboration with famed French fashion designer Paul Poiret. Dufy, who began his career as a painter, used bold color and forms. Eventually, he ventured into textile design and created striking large patterns for silks, dress fabrics and decorative textiles. He especially liked using flowers in patterns that repeated over the entire fabric surface. Dufy used woodblocks to print the original designs for many of his fabrics, and it gave them a distinct, crisp-edged appearance. Flowers were a popular theme of his, as well as tropical subjects like palm leaves.

Sonia Delaunay

Sonia Delaunay (1885 -1979) was a Ukranian-born artist who found her way to Paris in the early twentieth century. In paintings and textile design, she used bright colors and bold geometric patterns. Sonia and her husband Robert, also a painter, were influenced by color theory and had a life-long fascination with what she called simultaneous color, complementary or secondary pairs of colors chosen for their almost vibrating effect.

Painting by Sonia Delaunay. The colors and shapes in this painting are similar to the types of patterns Delaunay created for textiles.
Sonia Delaunay painting

Sonia Delaunay's designs are very abstract, almost like color blocks, and they don't resemble stylized animals or foliage shapes. She had her own textile design company and her patterns were used on women's clothing and theater costumes as well as home furnishings.

Ruth Reeves

Ruth Reeves (1892 - 1966) was an American painter and textile designer. She studied in Paris in the 1920s, where she probably knew of and might have met Raoul Dufy and Sonia Delaunay. But Reeves also absorbed influences from other parts of the world.

Ruth Reeves in her studio, 1930s
Picture of Ruth Reeves

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