Textile, Primavera, 1959
Medium: cotton Technique: hand screen printed on supplementary warp pile (velvet) Label: hand screen printed cotton velvet. Gift of Jack Lenor Larsen. 1973-54-2
What is this?
Length of printed cotton velveteen with irregular stripes of varied widths in black, pale blue, yellow, orange and ivory, scattered with a sylized floral pattern in the same colors.
Why is this important?
The intricate floral pattern for Primavera, inspired by the paintings of Gustav Klimt, took Jack Lenor Larsen and freelance artist Don Wight more than a year to perfect. With its exuberant clusters of small flower heads, shadowy leaves, and pulsing biomorphic shapes, all scattered freely against a ground of wavy stripes – the pattern had to be printed on a fabric that would show it to best advantage.
Sensuous velvet was the ideal medium for Primavera’s intoxicating design. But in the late 1950s, it was almost impossible to screen print complex patterns on traditional velvets, as the dye could not penetrate the thick pile. After extensive experimentation, Larsen’s studio successfully wove a cotton velvet, luxurious to the touch, with pile low enough to hand screen print with no loss of color intensity, a first in the American textile industry. In fact, in its day, Primavera was the most successful printed velvet in the industry. Today it remains an icon of the period.