Friday, 16 October 2009

The Making of the Article Published in the Art Newspaper, October Edition 2009, Entitled 'Bacon Early Rugs'

In the post that was removed on May 4 2009, The Carpet Index established a relationship between two newly discovered English rugs signed Francis Bacon and a French rug, see illustration, signed by Ivan da Silva Bruhns, the major Art Deco carpet designer. In the text a detailed structural analysis and a study of Bacon's style was required in order to explain this unexpected coincidence. This initiative was followed by an exchange of information with Clive Rogers, an English orientalist with an interest in modernist rugs who had a shared interest in the same puzzling questions. After the removal of our respective texts on each of our web sites, which had initially been produced in complete ignorance of each others activities, The Carpet Index was offered a chance of collaborating with the writing of an article on the subject of Bacon's rugs, by Clive Rogers. I accepted and the research has been conducted during the summer by the two of us in our free time and at our own expense.

The clear and shared objective was to collect the maximum amount of information in order to answer three major questions:

1) What rugs had Francis Bacon designed during his London Kensington interior design period which corresponded to the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s?
2) Which individual or manufacturer was responsible for the weaving of the rugs?
3) What was to be made of the two Francis Bacon rugs discovered in 2008 and a third unsigned rug of identical type discovered in 2009?

Da Silva Bruhns rug, 280cm x 135cm, with the agreement of Claude Boisgirard Auction House, Paris, Copyright

We both worked fairly intensively and with a complementary approach, throughout the summer. From France I supported Clive's research by using the extensive documentation of The Carpet Index and other Parisian libraries: Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Bibliotheque Forney, Bibliotheque Kandinsky, Bibliotheque Mitterand. Meanwhile in England Clive Rogers researched all of the rugs known to have been designed by Bacon, in the Royal Wilton Carpet Factory archive, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Tate Gallery, Guildford Cathedral and two medieval London companies as well as other specialists. He was informed by Wilton and others that the archives had been destroyed but was lucky enough to discover parts of it still extant at the Wiltshire Historical Centre in Chippenham, Wiltshire. He was also able to confirm that their Wessex quality corresponded to the hand knotted rugs used by designers like Edward McKnight Kauffer, Marion Dorn and Bacon. (Any additional documentation on Wessex is always welcome). Clive Rogers also undertook some revealing investigations in Ireland including that of the manufacturers in Co. Donegal and Co. Kildare.

This combined effort has allowed us to piece together how Francis Bacon spent his 'early years' in Berlin, Paris and London, and how he might have conceivably made particular choices towards the design of carpets, furniture, lighting and indeed his first paintings. From various photos, paintings and records we have been able to increase the identification tally of rugs designed by Bacon, to eleven. To this figure possibly two more rugs can be added, although they cannot be positively identified as being Bacon's design work. Until now the best publications were only able to identify six or seven rugs.

Concerning the second question, Clive has been able to compare the Royal Wilton Carpet Factory, using the collections of the V&A and Tate museums. He also discovered a new rug with the same design, colour and size as the two other green rugs signed Francis Bacon, but without a signature or monogram. In our second post we assumed, due to the information that was available at the time, that the 2008/9 signed Bacon rugs were originals. Due to new information that appeared during our research our statement has to be updated. The revised information will emerge in an article in the October issue of The Art Newspaper (London) and in more depth in another article in the December edition of Hali Magazine.

To be completely fair, the da Silva Bruhns rug was also studied and the different auction houses were contacted for more information or illustrations without success, (Sotheby Monaco, April 23 1989, lot 677; Maitre Claude Boisgirard, Paris, March 29 1990, lot 225 and Sotheby Monaco, December 11 1995, lot 141). We recall that this rug did not correspond to the different major styles of this designer, and we have not managed to find other rugs with a familiar composition. Even if the rug was signed, the lack of concrete elements obliges us to remain cautious with this attribution as well.

To finish this post I would just like to say that we have used the internet intensively for the search of information and Google Docs to pool the results of our respective works. It was only in September that we began exchanging opinions on the phone.

This collaboration was a very pleasant and rewarding experience and I want to thank Clive Rogers for the opportunity that he has given The Carpet Index by enabling it to be associated with this project.

All our efforts have clearly demonstrated that documentation on twentieth century carpet designers and artists is often fraught with numerous practical difficulties. If more research is not undertaken soon we can assume that an important part of the European decorative legacy will not only be forgotten, but perhaps lost altogether.

Article written by Jean Manuel de Noronha and Clive Rogers

News and Auctions
1)A white laminated stool by Francis Bacon will be on sale at Christies London, sale 7759, October 27 2009, lot 41.
2)A small exhibition, without catalogue, on the early design years of Francis Bacon will take place in the Tate Britain during the present trimester. For the first time three Bacon rugs will be presented, one signed F.B. is exclusive.
3)Quittenbaum, Germany, will sell a small Art Nouveau rug by Boutet de Monvel and signed BM, October 20 2009, lot 86320.
4)Von Zezschnitz, Germany, October 22 2009, will auction a flat woven tapestry from the Bauhaus, lot 441, 149cm x 77.5cm.
5)Piasa, Paris, France, in its Art Contemporain sale, October 23 2009, will offer rugs by: Robert Motherwell, Auguste Herbin, Alexander Calder, Miro, Corneille (3 lots), Robert Indiana (4 lots), Richard Lindner, Herbert Bayer, Genevieve Claisse, Eduardo Arroyo and Gerhard Richter.
6)Rago, USA, in their October 24-25 2009 sale will present a carpet by David Shaw Nicholls (lot 630) and a carpet by the Stark Company (lot 56).


Anonymous said...

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Enthusiastic Despair said...

Dear Mr Noronha, I'd like to express my appreciation of the material and insights you and Mr Rogers have made available online. Of particular importance I find your reference to a French research relating Bacon's rug imagery to that of Ivan Da Silva Bruhns. Is there any available data about it regarding author, title, date and publication? References concerning your and Mr Roger's contribution can be found in my site, Enthusiastic Despair, which aims to be informative, functioning also as a research, non-profit resource. To you both I refer in "Francis Bacon: Decoration and Rugs, 1929-30" (posted 7.2.11; revised 31.8.14). Because I am a historian, my only intention has been to keep a record of data (to be eventually credited in future essays), while giving all relevant credits. I send my best regards to you and to Mr Rogers.