The Song of the World: Jean Lurçat

Posted on January 10, 2017

Jean Lurçat, born in July of 1892 in Bruyères, France, is a painter and designer who is considered to be the most instrumental figure in reviving the art of tapestries in the 20th century. 

His works often encompass constellation imagery and symbolism, color, and circular forms-- all of which are important to the designs of Spinelli Kilcollin.

We can find stylistic similarities between the work of Lurçat and some of the painters and sculptors that he worked alongside (Picasso, Matisse), but because of the medium with which he most famously worked--weaving--they're incredibly distinctive. 

Lurçat studied at the Académie Colarossi and with the engraver Bernard Naudin.

He practiced among painters like Matisse, Cézanne, Renoir; his friends included Rainer Maria Rilke, Antoine Bourdelle, and Elie Faure. With other friends he founded the Feuilles de Mai (The leaves of May), an art journal that featured the works of these and other artists, before, in 1917, discovering tapestry. 

His first tapestries, which he titled Filles Vertes (Green Girls) and Soirée dans Grenade (Evening in Grenada), were created before he returned to Switzerland in 1918. 

After showing his tapestries in a series of exhibition in Paris, Lurçat resumed traveling to Spain, North Africa, the Sahara, Greece and Asia Minor. 

Each of the places that he visited provided him with visual cues that would then show up in his work, so his travels can, in a sense, be traced through his tapestries. 

Upon his return, he signed a contract without exclusivity with his friend, Étienne Bignou, showed in several more group exhibitions--including a showcase of four tapestries in the Musée National d'Art Moderne, National Museum of Modern Art, and slowly became a name that was drawing attention in European press.   

In 1928 he went to America for his first exhibition in New York City. Several years later, he became recognized as an established artist and, in 1932, showed in an exhibition titled Sélections with Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Derain, and Raoul Dufy and, in 1933, moved to New York.

While in New York, Lurçat began to create decorations and costumes for choreographed performances by Balanchine while he continued to work on his tapestries. 


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