Working during the height of expressionism, Lurcat sought to revive a lost appreciation for the mysticism and symbolism in medieval tapestry. We explore the way he interpreted them with a modern stroke.
It was 1914, and it was the height of expressionism. This meant emotional exploration was the catalyst for almost everything. Bold colors, symbolism, abstract shapes – these became potent storytellers for artists throughout Europe. Jean Lurçat was in France, doing his part as a young painter. But he was also struck by history and chose to consider how it could repeat itself and make a visual case for why it should.
More specifically, Lurçat was fascinated by the tradition of tapestry. The mysticism and otherworld images of the medieval sort must have felt to him more relevant than ever. Though appreciation for it had fallen out of the public discourse, he was determined to revive the medium. He transitioned from canvas to loom and enlisted the help of master weavers (eventually serving as “designer” among the weavers at Atelier Suzanne Goubely-Gatie in Aubosson). The outcome was a fifty-year career and candidacy as the father of modernist tapestry.
The first few images we’re showing are from the start of his foray into tapestry. The tapestries are more subdued, and don’t become unapologetically bold until they near the absurd in the 1940s and into the 50s. Motifs appear and reappear throughout his career (i.e. the sun, foliage, animals) and it’s really interesting to see the way in which they transform overtime.
The last set of images come from an article written by the World of Interiors, featuring Lurçat’s home in Saint Paul de Vence. Now a museum, it was once a part of a village that acted as a sort of colony for creatives and freethinkers. We’re in awe to say the least: his artistry translates to each surface.