The Wonderful Patterns of Alexander Calder

“Calder #1” scarf, 2001 by The Calder Foundation

I have been keeping my eye out for one of the three scarves that Vera Neumann made as an homage to her friend Alexander Calder (see past post: https://wp.me/p7fVUy-xL ). Last weekend I unexpectedly found this amazing scarf by Calder himself which was released by The Calder Foundation in 2001. It is based on his design for a fabric and wallpaper called “Calder #1” which was printed in 1949 by Laverne Originals. It is a magnificent example of Calder’s bold graphic style and use of strong primary colors. Below is another version of the scarf seen on ebay.

 

 

Finding this scarf was so thrilling but I especially love it because it has led me down a road discovering more scarves featuring Calder’s art, as well as textiles and wallpapers that he designed.

 

“La Mer” scarf, 1947 for Ascher Studios

Ascher Studios was a textile company founded in 1942 by Zika Ascher in Britain. Ascher was a Czech designer who sought to make modern art more accessible to the general public by fusing art with fashion. He approached Henry Moore to design a line of textiles which he manufactured. Ascher then commissioned artists such as Calder, Jean Cocteau, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso to design scarves for a project that became known as “the Ascher Squares.” These scarves or pocket squares were printed in limited editions of 30 per design, making them highly collectible and valuable.

 

Alexander Calder scarf, 1969 printed for Galerie Adrien Maeght. Copyright The Calder Foundation.

 

In 1948 New York wallpaper manufacturer Katzenbach & Warren commissioned artists for a collection of wall murals in an effort to rekindle the public’s interest in wallpaper after the war. They worked with Calder, Joan Miro, Henri Matisse and Roberto Matta, each of whom created a unique design that was hand screen printed in a limited edition of 200 as full scale murals, approximately 4 x 6 feet and 6 x 9 feet in size. These were manufactured and sold under the collection name “Mural Scrolls.”

These must have been incredible to see hanging in an environment. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate any photographs of them installed.

 

“A Piece of My Workshop” wall mural 1948. Image from sample book by manufacturer Katzenbach & Warren. Courtesy of Cooper Hewitt Museum.

 

 

“Calder #1” fabric 1949. Image from “Calder’s Universe by Jean Lipman.

 

In 1949 Calder installed a mobile in the studio of artist Erwin Laverne in New York. Laverne and his wife Estelle formed Laverne Originals to produce and sell fabrics and wallpapers  (and eventually furniture). Inspired by visiting the couple’s studio and seeing the wallpapers on view, Calder asked if he could create a wallpaper design for the company.

Calder designed “Calder #1” for a wallpaper as well as a furnishing fabric. Calder followed this up with the design “Splotchy” which is seen below installed in a kitchen.

 

“Splotchy” wallpaper, 1949

 

“Splotchy” wallpaper, photograph from Calder’s Universe by Jean Lipman

 

As a child I was mesmerized by Calder’s Circus installation in the lobby of the Whitney Museum (at its original New York location on Madison Avenue). I remember visiting it many times with my father. So I was delighted to discover that Calder designed this textile at the end of his life called “Acrobats.” The Whitney Museum commissioned it for its Calder retrospective which opened just three weeks before Calder’s death at age 78.

 

“Acrobats” fabric 1976 designed for The Whitney Museum of Art. Image from “Artists’ Textiles 1940-1976”.

 

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