Under the name Elenhank Designers, Inc., the husband-and-wife team of architect Henry Kluck (1922-2007) and artist Eleanor McMaster Kluck (1919-2016)—whose nicknames combine to form the company's moniker—took a leading role in the direction of American textile design and production in the post-World War II period. Both Illinois natives, the Klucks established their business in 1948 in Chicago—at the time, a hotbed for industrial and interior design firms—with a commitment "to create designs which not only fulfill but also anticipate the printed fabric requirements of contemporary interiors." Their first efforts at innovative furnishing textiles featured floral motifs and were executed with linoleum blocks carved by Eleanor. By the mid-1950s, however, the Klucks had adopted screen printing, which enabled faster production and was better suited to uniform, large-scale designs. From 1961, Elenhank Designers was represented in showrooms throughout the United States and abroad.
Printed on a heavyweight, plain-weave linen, Gradations is an example of Elenhank's "panel prints," which were intended to be used flat as wall covering, rather than draped as curtains, with several panels grouped side-by-side to maximize their imposing composition. From top to bottom, the offset horizontal bands of rectangles of various sizes transition from yellow to tangerine to orange to vermilion and, finally, cranberry. Although the changes in these saturated tints may, initially, appear random, each new hue is introduced by a narrow band with successive bands that "expand" and "contract" as they alternate with the color immediately above and below. Bold and visually sophisticated, Gradations illustrates Elenhank's self-described "new vocabulary of fabric expressions" that would have added a dramatic element to a modernist interior.
A panel of Gradations in shades of brown is in the collection of the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (1985-84-22).
Published in the Cora Ginsburg Summer 2019 catalogue.