Photograph Lucienne and Robin Day Foundation, courtesy of Antique Collector’s Club
Lucienne Day: In The Spirit of the Age
By Andrew Casey
‘Lucienne Day: In The Spirit of the Age’ is a welcome addition to publisher Antique Collector’s Club series on textile design. British Textile Designer Lucienne Day had a transformative effect on pattern design from the 1950s onwards. Covering everything from the appearance of her textile design ‘Calyx’ at the 1951 Festival of Britain, which proved to be a breakthrough moment in her career, to the change in direction she took with her silk mosaics in the 1970s, this book provides a comprehensive overview of the work of one of the most influential textile designers of the 20th century.
Author Andrew Casey allows plenty of page space for the designs of Lucienne Day: the 248-page book is packed full of images of Lucienne Day’s work. He also provides a detailed and insightful account of the life and work of Lucienne Day, from the 1940s to the 1990s, and there is mention of her continued relevance to designers today, with evidence of a renewed interest in Lucienne Day over the last 15 years, championed by the likes of London design store twentytwentyone; Converse Shoes and a 2009 Wallpaper cover.
Photograph Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation, courtesy of Antique Collector’s Club
Lucienne Day: insights and inspirations
The book was written with the support of the family of Lucienne Day, and her daughter, Paula, writes a fascinating foreward, with her own personal insight on what made her mother so extraordinary. She finishes by describing the book as “essential reading for all who admire Lucienne Day’s work” and, having reading on, we would certainly agree.
Andrew Casey documents what inspired Lucienne Day, including an early introduction to the work of the Bauhaus designers, the work of artists Joan Miro and Paul Klee, and a visit to Sweden that led to a fascination with Scandinavian design. And not forgetting the inspiration Lucienne Day gained from working with her husband, mid century furniture designer Robin Day. When you see the prolific output and quality of the designs documented here, her success may seem unsurprising. That is until you put it in the context of a time when few women had successful careers of any kind. Lucienne Day worked hard to form partnerships with retailers such as Heal’s and John Lewis, and these ensured commercial success as well as critical acclaim.
Lucienne Day: mass production to one-off commissions
The work of Lucienne Day appeared on everything from curtains to ceramics to wallpaper during the 1950s and 1960s, but there was one area of her work I knew little about, and found particularly captivating: this book charts how the creation of silk mosaics became a passion for Lucienne Day from the 1970s onwards, when she decided to focus on one-off commissions over patterns for mass-production. Each silk mosaic is a unique work of art; they are exquisitely beautiful, and the abstract designs are very different from those more commonly associated with her earlier work.
The images within the book are of excellent quality and there are plenty of them too – it’s easy to lose hours flicking through full page spreads of pattern after pattern. Mesmerising stuff indeed. It’s also interesting to see Lucienne Day and Robin Day (with film star good looks) featuring in a 1950s advert for Smirnoff Vodka, as well as a couple of Heal’s adverts for Lucienne Day curtain fabrics, and photographs of the couple in their home.
Although Robin Day and Lucienne Day are often viewed as a single design partnership, like a British Charles and Ray Eames, Andrew Casey’s book gives the reader a real appreciation of just how significant the work of Lucienne Day was in its own right.
Image Target Gallery, courtesy of Antique Collector’s Club
Lucienne Day: In The Spirit of the Age
Published by Antique Collectors Club
dimensions 216 x 273 mm
Visit the Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation
Buy Lucienne Day: In The Spirit of the Age here
To see mid century textile design, visit London exhibition Artist textiles: Picasso to Warhol
Or check out this article on mid century textile designer Sheila Bownas Mid Century pattern design and the Sheila Bownas Archive