Exhibit highlights textiles' role in modern interiors

Mon Jul 25, 2011 3:37pm EDT
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By Ellen Freilich

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The role of textiles in the history of modern interiors and design, often unrecognized, gets the spotlight at an exhibit at the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History and Material Culture.

The overlooked status of modern textiles is perhaps best exemplified by the iconic "Womb" chair by Eero Saarinen, according to Earl Martin, a curator of the "Knoll Textiles, 1945-2010" exhibit.

A feature of most 20th-century design collections, the "Womb" chair's fabric, usually a Knoll textile and a dominant design element, is rarely, if ever, identified.

"In modern interior design, the role of the furniture designer is well documented, but the importance of the textiles on their furniture was never talked about," Martin said.

The lack of recognition is perhaps partly attributable to the concentration of women in textile design.

"In the field of design, it was fairly characteristic for women to be pushed into textiles," Martin explained.

Knoll Textiles grew out of Hans Knoll Furniture which was formed in the early 1940s by Hans Knoll, who came to the United States from Germany to expand the family furniture business. Fundamental to Hans Knoll's success was the partnership he began in 1943 with his future wife, Florence Schust.

She had studied at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where she was a protegee of the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, and with Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. She also interned with the architects Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius in Cambridge, Massachusetts before coming to New York City and working at various architectural firms.   Continued...