The Bath-based American Museum opens for the 2017 season with a riot of textile colour – and all that jazz.
That’s on offer with two new exhibitions. One takes a look at the Jazz Age – an important period in Anglo-American cultural history – and the other is a showcase for Joyce Petschek – one of the most imaginative artists working in the textile world.
1920s Jazz Age: Fashion & Photographs is an exhibition celebrating the Roaring Twenties that, with connections to the family of one of the Museum’s founders, is sort of ‘coming home’ at a time when the spotlight of the world is firmly on the United States following the election of Donald Trump.
America in the 1920s created a cultural shockwave that reverberated around the world, creating icons on an industrial scale— from stars of the silver screen to skyscrapers.
This worldwide phenomenon will be explored in a display which examines America’s role as a trend-setting nation during this decade.
The period after the Great War created a seismic shift in moral, social, and cultural attitudes. Emancipation combined with burgeoning affluence offered women the chance to adopt a completely new way of dressing, from sports to evening wear.
1920s Jazz Age: Fashion and Photographs features over 100 fashion objects, including flapper dresses, evening capes, lame coats, couture, and ready-to-wear garments from 1919 to 1929. A decade of change is documented through the shifting hemlines and waistlines of the era’s fashions.
The exhibition will also include the work of photographer James Abbe, whose portraits present a candid commentary on early twentieth-century celebrity.
The American Museum is particularly delighted to display Abbe’s work. Many of his sitters had personal connections with Beatrice Pratt, the mother of one the Museum’s founders. Her role as fashionista during the first half of the early twentieth century will demonstrate the impact the 1920s had on fashion and the social scene.
From Hollywood to the Folies Bergère, Abbe documented the world of entertainment and created the modern-day concept of celebrity through his portraits of stage and screen stars such as Gilda Gray, the Dolly Sisters, and Louise Brooks.
The exhibition will also include illustrations by Gordon Conway to show visitors how graphic art and photography promoted the ‘Jazz Age’ look.
Visitors will also get a chance to try out some 1920s props, providing unique photo opportunities for family groups and people of all ages.
1920s Jazz Age: Fashion & Photographs is organised by The Fashion and Textile Museum and is accompanied by works from James Abbe: Photographer of the Jazz Age.
Now to the second new exhibition!……….
Joyce Petschek: Breaking the Pattern (18 March – 29 October 2017)
American Joyce Petschek has been passionate about Bargello needlework for much of her life. Instead, however, of trying to preserve the history of this tradition within its rigid confines, she is ‘Breaking the Pattern’ and reinventing the genre.
Bargello is a type of needlepoint embroidery consisting of upright flat stitches laid in a mathematical pattern to create motifs. The name originates from a series of seventeenth-century chairs found in the Bargello Palace in Florence that have a ‘flame stitch’ pattern.
Joyce Petschek: Breaking the Pattern represents a unique opportunity to see Joyce’s exquisite textile art curated in a complete exhibition for the first time in Britain.
Having ‘broken the pattern’, Joyce, who now lives in Tuscany and London, hand-stitches her designs primarily in silk threads to create works of intensely rich and luminous colour.
Using her intuition to create each new design, Joyce begins stitching without any preliminary sketch of the pattern itself. She often works on several pieces at a time, selecting her silk threads first and then stitching onto the canvas, always following her intuitive inspiration.
This means that a new work can take anything from a few months to a year to complete. In addition to unique wall textiles, Petschek has a special interest in reworking antique furniture, combining her designs with striking fabrics to give each piece an exceptional ‘out of time’ appearance.
Long renowned for its textile collection, the American Museum owns several examples of eighteenth-century flame-stitched objects and will juxtapose these pieces with Joyce’s work throughout the manor house to create an immersive exhibition experience.
Richard Wendorf, Director of the American Museum, says:
‘My colleagues and I are very much looking forward to hosting these two exhibitions at the same time. Together they reflect much of what the Museum is all about: a vibrant look at an important period in Anglo-American cultural history (the jazz age) and a showcase for one of the most imaginative artists working in the textile world (Joyce Petschek). We hope that these exhibitions will appeal to a wide range of the Museum’s visitors in 2017.’