Calyx

Design
1951 (made)
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Lucienne Day reinvigorated British textile design in the post-war period with the use of abstraction often inspired by plant forms. Her work is typified often by bold geometric designs but also by more subtle abstract patterns such as those in the design 'Calyx'. Married in 1942 to key British furniture designer, Robin Day, the couple shared the progressive view that modern design had the power to improve social conditions.

Her work was feted at the Festival of Britain in 1951, where her botanical 'Calyx' design was showcased and subsequently produced by interiors company Heal's. It was created specially for a room designed by Lucienne’s husband Robin in the Homes and Gardens Pavilion at the Festival. Here, both abstract designs like Day’s were pitted against more traditional floral forms. Most printed textiles at this time revived nineteenth-century floral patterns, but the Day design was bold and staunchly non-representational. The calyx (or fruiting body of a flower) cannot be deciphered as readily as a convential figurative botanical drawing. Its pioneering and challenging style had already influenced other designers well before its exhibition at the Festival. The painterly aspect of the work reflects the influence, acknowledged by Lucienne Day, of painters Klee and Miró and its almost child-like playfulness also pays homage to these fine artists. The design itself is actually a collage made up of different painted pieces stuck onto paper, which again recalls the sculptural assemblages of the Surrealist painters whom Day admired. It was produced in the UK by Heal’s, who at first were not convinced that this innovative style would be successful. However, it went on to win a Gold Medal at the Milan Triennale later in 1951, as well as the International Design Award at the American Institute of Decorators in 1952. This was the first time a British designer had won this award


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour, gouache and collage
Brief Description
Design for a printed linen, 'Calyx', watercolour, gouache, and collage, Lucienne Day, Britain, 1951
Physical Description
Design for a printed linen. Watercolour, gouache, and collage, 88 x 76 cm.
Dimensions
  • Length: 88cm
  • Width: 76cm
Summary
Lucienne Day reinvigorated British textile design in the post-war period with the use of abstraction often inspired by plant forms. Her work is typified often by bold geometric designs but also by more subtle abstract patterns such as those in the design 'Calyx'. Married in 1942 to key British furniture designer, Robin Day, the couple shared the progressive view that modern design had the power to improve social conditions.



Her work was feted at the Festival of Britain in 1951, where her botanical 'Calyx' design was showcased and subsequently produced by interiors company Heal's. It was created specially for a room designed by Lucienne’s husband Robin in the Homes and Gardens Pavilion at the Festival. Here, both abstract designs like Day’s were pitted against more traditional floral forms. Most printed textiles at this time revived nineteenth-century floral patterns, but the Day design was bold and staunchly non-representational. The calyx (or fruiting body of a flower) cannot be deciphered as readily as a convential figurative botanical drawing. Its pioneering and challenging style had already influenced other designers well before its exhibition at the Festival. The painterly aspect of the work reflects the influence, acknowledged by Lucienne Day, of painters Klee and Miró and its almost child-like playfulness also pays homage to these fine artists. The design itself is actually a collage made up of different painted pieces stuck onto paper, which again recalls the sculptural assemblages of the Surrealist painters whom Day admired. It was produced in the UK by Heal’s, who at first were not convinced that this innovative style would be successful. However, it went on to win a Gold Medal at the Milan Triennale later in 1951, as well as the International Design Award at the American Institute of Decorators in 1952. This was the first time a British designer had won this award
Associated Object
CIRC.190-1954 (Object)
Bibliographic References
  • Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.
  • John Murdoch and Susan Lambert, Summary Catalogue of Textile Designs 1840-1985 in the V. & A. Museum and colour microfiche, Surrey: Emmett Microform, 1986
  • Taken from Departmental Circulation Register 1955
Collection
Accession Number
CIRC.285-1955

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdNovember 6, 2003
Record URL