IRIS D’EAU ROLLER-PRINTED VELVETEEN BY FELIX AUBERT
As part of the experimental Groupe des Cinq and the Groupe des Six, both forerunners of the Art dans Tout movement in fin-de-siècle Paris, French designer Felix Aubert (1866-1940) was recognized as one of the textile industry’s most versatile talents. Working in concert with architects and decorative artists, Aubert proved particularly adept at creating furnishing fabrics for sophisticated interiors. This striking velveteen was manufactured by the Alsatian firm Scheurer, Lauth & Cie.; the pattern is also known to have been printed in 1897 by Pilon & Cie., a Parisian firm that produced most of Aubert’s textiles. Demonstrating Aubert’s graphic skills and unusual color sense, this outstanding design introduces an iconic motif—the water iris—that was a hallmark of his textile and interior designs.
Aubert was a key contributor to the Art Nouveau decorative vocabulary. Whereas most French Art Nouveau designers incorporated fantastically exaggerated, frenetic whiplash curves in their patterns, Aubert’s success relied on his sense of restraint and formality. Iris d’Eau shows his mastery of a composition in which lines and rhythm dominate: rising from the center of each fanning spray of slender, pin-striped leaves is a trio of long-stemmed irises. Arranged in a half drop repeat against undulating ribbons that suggest swirling water, the iris clusters touch to form a pseudo-diaper pattern. Aubert’s crisply outlined design was rendered especially well on the plush velveteen surface; this type of fabric was well suited to absorbing the heady mixture of colors chosen. As a testament to its powerful visual impact, the Groupe des Six chose Iris d’Eau to line the walls of the Galerie des Artistes Modernes in 1898.
Aubert’s water iris appears recurrently in his œuvre. An entrance hall furnished by Aubert in 1899 featured mosaic flooring, plaster moldings and enameled stoneware plaques all using a water iris motif nearly identical to those on this printed cotton. Several of his intricate lace patterns, for which he received enthusiastic praise, were also ornamented with graceful irises. Aubert’s furnishing textiles for the Exposition Universelle of 1900 continued this theme; one of his submitted designs showed three irises threaded together and arranged in a rhythmic half drop repeat, much like this example.
Iris d’Eau was printed in multiple colorways on various types of cotton. Examples are found in two important German collections: the Textilmuseum Krefeld (06458) and the Landesmuseum Stuttgart (GT 6516).
41” H x 33.5” W