Rugs through time (1920s-1930s) – Francis Bacon and Art Deco

In our last Rugs through Time we looked at the work of William Morris and The Omega Workshop, a generation of craftsmen and women who changed the arts and craft movement in the early 20th Century.

This time around, we continue through to the 1920s and explore the craft of Francis Bacon, his attempt to destroy his early artworks and how Art Deco has influenced rug design today.

How was Art Deco born?

Post World War I, the roaring 1920s gave rise to a new movement in art and interior design. Beginning in France, the term Art Deco; or simply Deco, was coined by architect Le Corbusier in his journal L’Esprit nouveau under the headline “1925 Expo: Arts Deco”.

What he refereed to as Arts Deco would later be defined in the mid 60s as the Art Deco movement. At the time, between two globe spanning wars, the visual art style of craft motifs and machine imagery began to flourish in art.

Art Deco is characterised by geometric shapes, bright colours and complex embellishments. Starting in the 1920s-30s, the art style pulled from cubism and modernism to create something new and abstract.

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Poster for the 1925 Expo: Arts Deco

The 1920s saw Francis Bacon begin to explore his art

Francis Bacon was an Irish born artist who became known for his rough and raw imagery. His style isolated abstract human figures in non descript or contained settings, such as cages.

Bacon only painted sporadically from the early 1920s to mid 30s, making his living working in interior design, including rug design. Exploring his art and learning with each creation, once Bacon had developed his skills he became critical of his early work.

While his career led him to explore religious imagery, such as the 1944 triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, which was to be his breakthrough, his work in the 20s became a disappointment to him. He hated the simplicity in which he designed, seeing his work as highly derivative of other cubist works.

“Who is Francis Bacon darling?”

Between 1928 and 1930, Francis Bacon working in the capitals of Europe – London, Berlin and Paris – crafting interior schemes, including pieces of furniture. These designs fed into his early artworks.

Three_Studies_for_Figures_at_the_Base_of_a_Crucifixion

Three Studies At The Base Of The Crucifixion

Around this time, though no accurate records exist, Bacon created several rugs into which he weaved his name. When he went through a phase of destroying early works that he saw as poor examples of his ability, few escaped destruction. The only survivors did so by being hidden in private collections.

After a rug dealer asked the question ‘Who is Francis Bacon darling?’ to a specialist about two rugs that had come into his possession bearing that sown in name, speculation grew as to whether they were in fact some of Bacon’s earliest works.

In 2012, the two rugs bearing Bacon’s signature appeared and disappeared from a public auction. Following an examination of the rugs by the Francis Bacon foundation, they were anonymously taken off the for sale list.

Though there was no official word on why they were pulled from the auction, it was assumed that the rugs were genuine and a collector had purchased them behind the scenes.

The industrial and metallic influence of the 1920s on modern rug design

The use of industrial colours and art deco, cubist and modernist styles continues in art today.

Bazaar Velvet’s Andante London rug, in our Core Collection 2014, echoes the bold blocks and metallic colouring of Bacon’s work.

Andante-London

Andante London rug

The cubism he tried to use as a jumping off point, combined with his melancholy look at humanity in his later works led him towards the darker shades in his art. This rug is clearly art deco inspired is its style and colouring.

Created in another post war time, the presence of silver, grey and black in the rug reflects the still increasingly industrial world. Modern transportation such as ships, planes and big smog filled cities still dominate what we see as modernity.

Thankfully the bleakness of Bacon’s work is circumvented in the Andante London rug’s design by the tints of white and overall softness of the chosen shades, with the grey almost tinted to a cool blue.

Perhaps an even better representation of art deco and even further from the solemn style of Bacon, we have the Manhattan series, specifically the Manhattan I rug. Using a density of shapes plus the addition of a vibrant pink in the design, it suggests futuristic technology by adding a flourish of dynamic colour.

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