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Eszter Haraszty Screen-Printed Linen, Fibra for Knoll Textiles, American, 1953

American, 1953

Modernism in America benefited greatly from the contribution of European émigrés; many of its leading architects, artists and designers came to the United States where they were instrumental in disseminating and institutionalizing the modernist aesthetic. The style embraced many different tendencies concurrently, and textiles were an integral component in the creation of both commercial and residential interiors. The need for fabrics that complemented an overall reductivist approach prompted manufacturers to establish their own textile departments or to produce specially commissioned work from avant-garde artists and designers.

Born in Budapest, Eszter Haraszty (1923–1994) studied art history and textile design before coming to New York in 1947. Following the Communist takeover in Hungary that year, she decided to remain in the United States. Through her friendship with fellow Hungarian and architect/designer Marcel Breuer, Haraszty was appointed director of textiles at Knoll Associates in 1949, a position she held until 1955. Founded in 1938 by Hans Knoll, the company was one of the most prestigious interior design firms in the postwar period whose talented roster included some of the most well-known names working in the field. Considered a brilliant colorist, Haraszty’s furnishing fabrics often added a strong chromatic accent to otherwise subdued decorative schemes. Introduced in 1953, Fibra was a highly successful design that received the Museum of Modern Art’s Good Design award in that year and also won a first prize in the American Institute of Decorators Home Furnishings Design Competition. The pattern—based on the arrangement of loom heddles—playfully references Haraszty’s knowledge of fabric construction. Yet unlike the closely spaced alignment on an actual loom, the wide, irregularly spaced and overlapped motifs suggest a sense of movement that would have been emphasized by Fibra’s use as a drapery material. Printed on both casement cloth and linen and available in eight colorways, Fibra was chosen by Florence Knoll for her design of the CBS building’s executive offices in New York. This half-width sample demonstrates Haraszty’s preference for a limited palette of carefully selected hues against a solid—either white or black—ground. Fibra was also produced as a linen dress-weight fabric when Haraszty worked briefly for B. H. Wragge, a sportswear manufacturer, in the mid-1950s. At Knoll, Fibra remained in production until 1965.

Mariska Karasz Screen-Printed Linen, Skein for F. Schimacher & Co., American, 1952

American, 1952

Hungarian-born Mariska Karasz's (1898-1960) design, Skein, was produced by F. Schumacher & Co. in 1952. A prominent New York based textile and wallpaper manufacturing firm, the company was known for its high-end silk brocades and damasks that were in great demand from elite clients and decorators. From the 1930s and especially in the postwar period, however, Schumacher commissioned textiles from well-known American designers working in the modernist idiom. Initially a designer of women’s and children’s fashion, Karasz turned to embroidery in the late 1940s, creating wall hangings that demonstrated her particular interest in color and texture. Her work was exhibited in the Gallery of America House in 1949 as well as in museums across the country. Skeins, one of three embroideries by the artist that was adapted by Schumacher and printed in seven colorways, was illustrated in an article by Karasz in Craft Horizons in 1953. House Beautiful, where Karasz was guest needlework editor, featured the printed version, Skein, in their November 1952 issue. In their advertising for Skein, Schumacher noted its use in House Beautiful’s Pace Setter House and in the furnishings of the cruise ship S.S. United States, both in 1952. Karasz’s embroidery, Skeins, is in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (1992.117); it was also included in the 1959 edition of Karasz’s book, Adventures in Stitches (1959). A panel of Skein is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2005.316).


Fibra: 53.5” H x 25” W
Skein: 31.5” H x 49” W
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