French Art Deco Rugs and Carpets From the 1920’s
French Art Deco Rugs and Carpets – Production emerged during a perfect storm of technology, political conditions and public demand that allowed the rug and the master weaver to rise to an unrivaled level of prominence. The French Art Deco rugs and carpets reflect modern elements paired with unique traditions inspired by individual artists. By the 1920s, the vintage rugs featured bold designs that could become a focal point and statement piece rather than a pleasant background for furniture and other design pieces.
At the same time, anonymous firm-employed designers suffering in the economic environment following WWI became freelance weavers creating luxurious custom commissions for private clients. the French Art Deco rugs and carpets reached the height of their popularity between 1925 and 1937 with production falling dramatically due to the political instabilities that led up to WWII.
The roots of the French Art Deco rugs and carpets designs were laid during the turn of the century by the prevalent art nouveau and arts and crafts era carpets and furniture featured at the 1900 Exposition Universelle, which instigated the establishment of La Société des Artistes Décorateurs. The popularity of textiles and carpets designed by William Morris and his contemporaries paved the way for French Art Deco rugs and carpets that were created by designers with international name recognition.
In the years following the industrial revolution, great importance was placed on the role of industrial designers in the production of textiles, carpets and furniture. By 1915, industrial design schools and programs publicizing industrial design as a career path drastically increased the number of new minds entering the field in Belgium, Germany, France, the UK and the United States. In Germany, successful schools were established in Berlin, Munich, Leipzig and Cologne. The powerful Deutscher Werkbund, which hosted the 1914 Cologne Exhibition, inspired British interior designers to establish the competing Design and Industries Association (DIA) in 1915.
The international influence and expositions hosted by various design groups created an atmosphere charged with creativity. By 1915, the Österreichischer Werkbund and the Wiener Werkstatte were established in Austria and Vienna respectively; the Schweizerischer Werkbund in Switzerland and Sweden’s Slöjdföreningen handcrafting society adopted similar campaigns to advance their crafts based on the German model.
The Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs of 1925 held in Paris represented the best of the best French Art Deco rugs and carpets and designs from the top designers and weavers around the world making art deco the premier design movement of the time.
The graphic rugs of US-born designer Marion Dorn and her husband Edward McKnight Kauffer woven in their London studio are among the carpets that epitomize the sweeping, angular style of art deco designs. Far away, the Chinese studio operated by Walter Nichols wove their own brand of art deco rugs and carpets while the Chinese-born ex-pat Betty Joel created unique designs for private clients.
The legendary Maison Myrbor studio in Northern Africa manufactured carpets for Joan Miro, Jean Lurcat and other French designers ranging from abstract Berbers decorated with tribal glyphs to fluid pictorials with mythical influences carried over from the ancient Greeks and remaining pre-Raphaelites.
In Paris, interior designers experimented symmetric and asymmetric geometric patterns with subtle monochrome colors and sharply contrasting palettes inspired by the color theories of Robert Delaunay. Eileen Gray also created art deco carpets to be produced by Evelyn Wyld as well as commercial studios. Gray’s abstract designs allowed weavers at the Maison Myrbor to experiment with alternative sisal-fiber pile in a looped chenille weave.
Popular Parisian weavers Hélène Henry and Germaine Montereau also experimented with new fibers and subtle monochrome carpets decorated with shadowed details created by textural half-pile and adapted velvet making techniques used to create shaggy poodle tufts.
As designs evolved, the minimalist vintage rug became tremendously popular decreasing the need for active designers. Following the 1937 Exposition of International Arts and Technology, members of the Union des Artistes Moderne (UAM), which included independent designers and the prominent ateliers of Aubusson, collectively declared “the fate of French taste is in danger” due to the poor showing and drastic decline in overall carpet production.
With the threat of WWII and the closure of the Bauhaus School, rug production and design innovation was dampened. Although a limited number of art deco rugs were created through the 1940s, the level of rug production incorporating master weavers and master designers did not recover.