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Object Timeline

1955

  • Work on this object began.

1956

  • We acquired this object.

2003

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2019

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Textile, Evening Enchantment, 1955

This is a Textile. It was designed by Marc Chagall and manufactured by Fuller Fabrics. It is dated 1955 and we acquired it in 1956. Its medium is cotton and its technique is printed by engraved roller, incised by photographic process. It is a part of the Textiles department.

In 1953, Dan Fuller, president of Fuller Fabrics, invited five of the 20th century’s most distinguished artists: Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, and Raoul Dufy, to collaborate on a line of textiles to be called the Modern Master Series. The concept was unique in that the artists were not commissioned to produce original patterns specifically for the textiles. Instead, Fuller worked with each artist to select motifs from their existing body of work, which were then translated by the company’s in house designers into repeating patterns.[1] Fidelity of reproduction was essential, and Fuller’s designers worked diligently to render the motifs accurately for engraving. The patterns were roller printed rather than screen printed, because the fabric was intended to be mass produced and sold at low price points—less than $2 a yard—for use by both garment manufacturers and home sewers. Each artist approved the final patterns derived from his work and was involved in the selection of the colors.
Marketing was a key element of the project. The Modern Master Series was launched in the fall of 1955 with both a museum exhibition as well as a documentary film that featured the artists in their studios, the original works of art, the finished fabrics, and the production process. The exhibition and film opened at the Brooklyn Museum and then traveled to other American museums.[2] For a five page editorial spread in Life magazine, “Modern Art in Fashion,” Life’s fashion editor, Sally Kirkland, enlisted the participation of her friend, fashion designer Claire McCardell. McCardell designed a wardrobe of separates and dresses using Modern Master fabrics, which were featured in the Life photo essay.[3]
The collection of 60 designs was much celebrated when it was launched. American Fabrics applauded Fuller for its daring and courage in bridging “the abyss” between fine and applied arts.[4] At the time of proposed acquisition, the museum holds six other fabrics from Fuller’s Modern Master Series in its collection: The Bullfight, Birds, and Poisson by Picasso; Vitrail by Léger; Femme Ecoutant by Miró; and Evening Enchantment by Chagall.
The source motif for this fabric comes from a magical painting, Evening Enchantment, by one of the most original of the giants of 20th-century art, Marc Chagall. In creating this pattern, Fuller captured the essence of Chagall’s work: its lush, lyrical colors and mystical, dreamlike quality. This sumptuous overall pattern in rich blues and greens, features a violinist surrounded by a fantasy world of flowers. The violinist was a frequent symbol in Chagall’s work, one that recalled his Jewish upbringing in Russia. Flowers, an expression of love, were another recurring symbol. Chagall’s romanticized, luxurious rendering of these images created a particularly elegant fabric.
Claire McCardell (1905–1958), who is acknowledged with creating “The American Look” in women’s leisurewear, used Evening Enchantment as the fabric for a handsome full skirted dress. While the fabrics from Fuller’s Modern Master Series were generally used for casual sportswear, the elegance of this print gives McCardell’s dress a more formal and sophisticated allure.
[1] Geoffrey Rayner, Richard Chamberlain and Annamarie Stapleton, Artists’ Textiles: Artist Designed Textiles 1940–1976 (Woodbridge: Antique Collectors’ Club, 2012), 139.
[2] "Trying abstraction on fabrics; adaptations from Picasso, Miro, and Léger." Artnews 54, (November 1955): 43.
[3] Kohle Yohannan, and Nancy Nolf, Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998), 126.
[4] "Fine arts and textiles come to terms." American Fabrics no. 35 (January 4, 1955): 49.

This object was donated by Fuller Fabrics. It is credited Gift of Fuller Fabrics Corp..

Its dimensions are

H x W: 141 x 103 cm (55 1/2 x 40 9/16 in.)

Cite this object as

Textile, Evening Enchantment, 1955; Designed by Marc Chagall (French, b. Russia, 1887 - 1985); USA; cotton; H x W: 141 x 103 cm (55 1/2 x 40 9/16 in.); Gift of Fuller Fabrics Corp.; 1956-45-3

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18410091/ |title=Textile, Evening Enchantment, 1955 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=25 March 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>