1950s Visit to the Art Museum Skirt

I really do love fabrics that pay homage to the arts, and I have wanted to add a garment in this print to my collection ever since I first saw it ages ago.  It dates to the 1950s, that great post-war period when there was a movement to involve art in textile design.

This movement actually has its roots in the days of World War One, when the American Museum of Natural History became involved in a project aimed at getting textile designers to use the museum’s artifacts as inspiration for prints. This movement died down in the 1920s, but it was not forgotten by one of the main proponents of the project, M.D.C. Crawford. Crawford was a collector of South American textiles, and was a reporter for Women’s Wear Daily.  As World War Two spread across the world, he again suggested turning to museums as a way to help designers cope with being deprived of inspiration from Paris.

After the war ended, the art as fabric torch was raised up by a new publication for the textile industry, American Fabrics. According to this magazine there was $780,000,000 Worth of Design Ideas…Free just waiting for textile designers in the works of art in America’s museums.

As a result there are many art-based textile print projects from the late 1940s and the 1950s. Probably the most famous one is Fuller Fabrics’ line called Modern Masters. This line was so important that Life magazine did a large photo essay on it.

I have never discovered what textile company made the print on my new skirt, and the selvage ends are missing. In a way it takes the advice of American Fabrics a bit too literally. However, the black background and the colorful renditions of the works make for a lovely design.

There are several things about the print that I found to be really interesting. First was the inclusion of ceramics. Like textiles, ceramics are sometimes placed in the category of applied arts, rather than fine arts, where most paintings and sculptures are placed.

(If anyone can help identify this piece, I’d be most grateful.)

Also interesting is the inclusion of an Asian work, The Great Wave by Japanese artist Hokusai. While most of the works used are European, it was nice having this famous Japanese work.

Vincent van Gogh is well represented…

… as are the Impressionists.

The 17th century Dutch painters are represented by Johannes Vermeer…

…and Pieter de Hooch.

And any good art course includes a little Goya.




Filed under Collecting, Textiles, Vintage Clothing

9 responses to “1950s Visit to the Art Museum Skirt

  1. I love it, where can you get this fabric?


  2. I had never heard of this fabric, although I was alive during the period it would have been made. How wonderful, the survivors must be quite rare, you made a good find!
    bonnie in provence


  3. jacq staubs

    All we need is Audrey Hepburn with a bandeau neck 4/4 sleeve top and flat ballet shoes – a la Roman Holiday. I remember Brunswig et Fills using an entire collection very similar for interiors . Not as fabulously of the period as this. Just Great!


  4. Lovely! I wonder if the fabric came with a little folder to identify the pictures.


  5. Fantastic! I’ve never seen a 50’s fabric I didn’t like, but this one is really sensational!


  6. Pingback: Catalina Culottes Plus Associated American Artist Print | The Vintage Traveler

  7. What an amazing novelty skirt! I love a good novelty print!


  8. Suzanne

    The fabric is called “Art Gallery” is by Maidstone Fabrics Schwartz-Liebman. The salvage edges are blank, but I am the lucky owner of a six yard sample cut with a factory tag.


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