Textile: The Harvester, ca. 1920
Raoul Dufy (French, 1877–1953); manufacturer: Atuyer, Bianchini et Férier
Printed linen; 72 x 47 in. (182.9 x 119.4 cm)
Purchase, Edward C. Moore, Jr. Gift, 1923 (23.116)
During the Art Deco period, there was a fairly wide acceptance by the consumer public of ideas put forth by avant-garde painters and sculptors, especially as they were adapted by designers and applied to fashionable luxury objects that encapsulated the sophisticated tastes of the times. Cubism in particular played an important role in the development of the Art Deco style.
The invention of Cubism by the painters Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in 1907–9 turned old artistic conventions—namely the realistic depictions of subjects—on their head. In its most basic definition, Cubism proposed the visual reduction of a subject to its most basic shapes and planes through geometric stylization. The resulting loss of naturalism allowed a "pure" representation expressing the essence of the subject, projecting a more objective and real vision of it than a mere depiction could. Many French designers borrowed the abstracted shapes of Cubism for their decorative effects.
The artist Dufy met the couturier Paul Poiret in 1911. With Poiret's encouragement and financial backing, Dufy created a series of bold monochromatic textiles, hand block-printed in a manner suggestive of both eighteenth-century toiles de jouy and the abstract geometries of modern painting. Poiret used these principally, but not exclusively, for clothing; they soon attracted the attention of a commercial manufacturer, Atuyer, Bianchini et Férier, who, much to Poiret's chagrin, subsequently coopted their production. This textile depicts a harvester reaping wheat; the fragmented design (which, in the manner of traditional toiles de jouy, is a country scene, albeit of a modern nature) suggests motion, noise, and repetitive action, bringing the motif to life.