Tapestries and Rugs by Jean Lurcat – A Pioneer in Modernist Design
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Jean Lurcat Rugs and Tapestries – Jean Lurcat (1892 – 1966) was an artist, innovator and pioneer who revitalized tapestry making in the 20th century. Lurcat was a lifelong artist and an avid traveler. He lived through two world wars and fought alongside distinguished comrades in the French Resistance. Lurcat’s works combine surrealist elements, modernism and classicism. This results in tapestries and vintage area rugs that range from grave and apocalyptic to cheerful and abstract. Colorful pieces like “La Mutua Ayuda” (mutual aid) radiate a warm and cheerful style while L’Apocalypse (the apocalypse) and L’Orage (the storm) have a much more somber aura.
At age 20, Lurcat moved to Paris France from the mountainous Vosges district near Germany. He briefly lived with his brother Andre, who was a successful architect. Lurcat studied at the Academie des Beaux-Arts and became an apprentice to the master engraver Bernard Naudin and the painter Jean-Paul Lafitte. It was in Naudin’s atelier that Lurcat met Cezanne, Matisse and great artists who Lurcat would later exhibit with. During WWI, Lurcat returned from an Italian vacation to fight with the infantry. His stint as a soldier was cut short due to an illness that allowed him to perfect his artistic hand. In 1917, Jean Lurcat designed his first tapestry. These early tapestries were woven by Marthe Hennebert, a lady who Lurcat lived with in Paris. This was the start of a long and successful career. During the 1920s, he traveled throughout Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor. This exotic, international style is apparent in many Lurcat tapestries.
In 1933, Lurcat’s career was transformed when his first Aubusson tapestry was created. At the time, tapestry weaving was at a low point. When Lurcat moved to Aubusson, the industry changed. Before Lurcat, weavers had an unmanageable selection of 14,000 colors. Lurcat switched to a more practical palette of 32 colors. The simplicity of this style transformed Aubusson tapestries. Lurcat’s works were exhibited alongside the greatest 20th century art. He designed cartoons for 1,000 tapestries, including 300 that are displayed in the Jean Lurcat Museum. Lurcat was a revolutionary artist who modernized tapestries and made them part of contemporary decor.