Alicja Wyszogrodzka made many designs that stood out from the mass of fabrics and accessories on the market. Her kerchief with a "quilted" motif of a stylized female head on a red-and-amaranthine background, with a graphic design or composition in red-and-gold more resembles a poster than an applied fabric.
Alicja Wyszogrodzka, kerchief, produced by the Photo Printing Wing of the Industrial Design Institute in Warsaw, 1958, collections of the National Museum in Warsaw, photo: Michał Korta
The design of serial-produced printed fabrics with domestic patterns and styles began in Poland in the post-war period. There was no one at the time to educate designers. In 1951 the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw opened a short-lived Fabric Print Workshop run by Maria Skoczylas-Urbanowiczowa, which did not last long; thus it was chiefly the graduates of the State Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź who went on to fill the ranks of the industrially-produced fabric designers. Freed from the labors of work at the loom, the students quickly grasped the new technology, which allowed them to create their own multicolored compositions on canvas. Though still without any artistic output, they relied on their abilities to design prints, as well as on their studies, which gave them certain resources in terms of technical/technological information acquired in their apprenticeships at textile factories.
1945 saw the start of a collection of fabric designs with an eye for their industrial production. Wanda Telakowska, who worked at the Production Aesthetics Supervision Bureau in Warsaw (after 1950 the Industrial Design Institute), commissioned to buy from artists designs which were to furnish Polish light industry, the manufacture of tapestries and crafts cooperatives. These orders were placed with outstanding artists, the likes of Maria Jarema, Jadwiga Maziarska, Edmund Bartłomiejczyk and Władysław Strzemiński, and the designs themselves seldom differed from paintings.
Alicja Wyszogrodzka, printed skirt-length fabric, produced by the Photo Printing Wing of the Industrial Design Institute in Warsaw, 1958, collections of the National Museum in Warsaw, photo: Michał Korta
The fabric print workshop, known as the Fabric Factory, got its start at the Industrial Design Institute (IWP) in 1950. This workshop hired young designers. Among them was Alicja, whose surname was then Gutkowska.(1) A fabric design of hers was made in this workshop, and samples were made in a few color schemes, initially in cooperation with the Fabric Institute in Kalisz and Łódź. Though the Qualifying Commission and then the Selection Commission chose the designs and the best color selections, it was commerce that most often decided on production. Designs and colors were to be "pretty" and sell well, and thus, old designs were often resurrected in lieu of new ones.
"The visual artists sitting on the Commission were often encountering fabric design for the first time and sometimes made mistakes in their evaluations, as they treated the design less as patterns for future fabrics than as compositions painted on paper. Because there were no general criteria in textile design, criteria from other disciplines of art (e.g., painting, graphics) were applied. Discussions took the shape of polemics on aesthetics. This state was most aggravated in the case of printed fabric designs, as print was something entirely new."(2)
The consultants of the IWP were famous artists, the doyens of Polish art, including Wojciech Jastrzębowski, Lucjan Kintopf, Maria Obrębska-Stieberowa, Eleonora Plutyńska, and Jerzy Sołtan. Wojciech Jastrzębowski attested to the importance of the designer’s task at the time with the following statement:
"If Polish industry is to be a source of wealth for the nation, its design must be strong enough to stem the tide of competing products from abroad. It must then stand opposed to what others are doing; in other words, possess one vital advantage: CULTURAL DISTINCTIVENESS."(3)
The Qualifying Commission accepted designs that were chiefly Polish by nature, but also acknowledged technological imperatives. The designer had to take the industrial limitations into account in choosing cotton, silk, decorative fabric, wool, or phloem textiles, and in considering various methods: harness weaving, Jacquard loom, carpet, and rotary and film press. The design rules were thus adjusted to the industrial conditions, e.g., fabric length, report multiplication, and design application to fabrics, particularly those that were difficult to produce or were poorly executed, which happened with some frequency. Designers always had to be well prepared to defend their concepts before the Commission, to defend the artistic aspects of the design before trade requirements, and to participate in the production process (when it came to particularly difficult designs). Problems of this sort inclined the institute’s workers to set up experimental film press and textile workshops, and a color laboratory at the IWP. Film printing facilitated the production of decorative and clothing fabrics, which were sold at the institute’s company store.
Alicja Wyszogrodzka, "Easter Eggs", printed clothing fabrics, a few color variations on a pattern taken from folk Easter eggs, produced by the Photo Printing Wing of the Industrial Design Institute in Warsaw, 1958, collections of the National Museum in Warsaw, photo: Michał Korta
Lectures were organized on the current tendencies in design, the color schemes dominant in fashion and interiors, and the synthetic fabrics just entering the market. Alicja Wyszogrodzka participated many times in the Frankfurt fair and shared the knowledge she gained upon her return. She also ran seminars for designers across the country, showing slides or samples of materials imported from abroad, which was not insignificant for a country behind the Iron Curtain. It may have been from these pointers that fashion-conscious designs, so eagerly awaited by the young customers of the day, began appearing at the IWP’s Fabric Factory. These included exotic motifs and those inspired by op-art and hyper-realism. A Julia Rayzacher article of 1957 describes the new patterns appearing on fabrics.
"Bold and realistic flower motifs such as roses and carnations, plucked straight from the hothouse, are scattered on a white background; gigantic flowers (just the heads) – pelargoniums, dahlias, daisies, water lilies and hyacinths – are tossed on bright backgrounds; and illustrative patterns use visually processed, utterly unexpected objects: for example, matchbox stickers, old makes of automobiles, street lamps, and even effectively scattered, ordinary buttons."(4)
The decorative fabrics best represent her style – compositions painted with a black line on a white background, with visible brushstrokes (Loops, 1958), black and white striped patterns, often with large reports (Ladder, 1956), and checkerboard ones rounded off with a graphic line or cube pattern (Domino, 1958). More seldom were stylized plant ornaments: horsetails, wild rose, umbelliforous black lilac, and cacti (Leaves, ca. 1960). We also encounter drawings of old vehicles and stamped envelopes. There are schematic silhouettes of birds (Hens/Roosters, 1959) and animals on children’s kerchiefs.
Color was important in Wyszogrodzka’s work. As Hanna Chwierut-Jasicka noted, Alicja Wyszogrodzka was "more focused on nuances of color, on being less expansive in building a composition, on designing prints whose effect was subtle and moody, and on fabrics that melted with softness. This type of fabric suggested, as it were, her development of a tightly interwoven pattern, leaving scarcely any room for the splotches of background. Her fabrics from the 1950s seem to take up a discussion with the all-consuming enforced styles, and are another interpretation of the aesthetic premises of the time."(5)
Alicja Wyszogrodzka, clothing fabric, print on silk, for the Industrial Design Institute in Warsaw, produced by the Milanówek Silk Industry Factory, 1956, collections of the National Museum in Warsaw, photo: Michał Korta
Clothes of her design came out through the Industrial Design Institute – georgette skirtings of synthetic silk with representational patterns, such as Marszałkowska Residence District /Old Town (1955), with its grotesquely sketched nighttime urban landscapes – buildings, street lamps and the silhouettes of passersby skulking about. The Milanówek Silk Industry Factory made natural silk skirt lengths of her designs in a few color schemes, her still-life patterns densely packing the whole space of the fabric to create mosaic ornaments of jugs, bottles, glasses, trays and lemons. The Easter Egg clothing fabric (1955-1958), made in a few color schemes, with rhomboidal motifs that recalled the patterns painted on Easter eggs, came about in cooperation with a village group from nearby Biłgoraj. This was one of Wanda Telakowska’s many initiatives: folk art from areas cultivating local decorative traditions began to serve as inspiration for fabric prints. The designers of the IWP worked to establish the spectrum of colors typical for the region – not just from the textiles, but from the local natural surroundings as well. The work with shepherdesses from around Biłgoraj proved an interesting experiment. The palette of colors was drawn from the meadows, according to the colors of the plants growing all around (and later from color illustrations). This work supplied them with the patterns for the fabrics.
In the 1960s Alicja Wyszogrodzka designed primarily decorative fabrics of cotton or linen with silkscreen and film screen techniques, used for kitchen towels, napkins and tapestries (with patterns of household devices, dishes, fruits and vegetables). Her kerchief designs are particularly exceptional, with their stylized shapes of children, fairy-tale figures and animals. Fabric design that was color-and-pattern-coordinated for an entire interior was an interesting project – it included curtains and carpets with geometrical compositions of colorful circles.
In 1960 the institute was transformed. Some of the designers departed for the Central Bureau of Light Industrial Design, which branched off from the Industrial Design Institute. The tasks, too, were divided. At the IWP fabric began to be treated as one part of larger units – person/clothing, person/apartments – and complex design issues were also tackled (the role and function of fabric in the contemporary interior, color issues). The Central Bureau of Light Industrial Design workshops continued to design fabrics for industry, but research and work with non-professional creative collectives was discouraged.
Alicja Wyszogrodzka, MDM printed clothing fabrics, produced by the "First" Rudzka Dye and Finishing Shop in Ruda Pabianicka, 1955, collections of the National Museum in Warsaw, photo: Michał Korta
Printed fabrics designed at the IWP, and later at the Central Bureau of Light Industrial Design, stand out in both their design quality and rich colors. The style shaped at the turn of the 1950s and 1960s is associated with modernity, i.e., it used an abstract, free form. For young designers like Alicja Wyszogrodzka, this period meant being open to new directions. At a time when access to Western resources was limited, the institute gave designers contact with literature and the relevant catalogues; and some traveled to international fairs. It was a time of free experimentation with form, composition and color.
Alicja Wyszogrodzka (1928) was a designer of decorative printed fabrics, clothing fabrics and accessories; she also created artistic fabrics, graphic arts and paintings. Her first designs were signed with her maiden name, Łasińska, and later Gutkowska. From 1950-1955 she studied at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź, in the Fabrics Department. She graduated in 1955 from the studio of Professor Teresa Tyszkiewicz and Professor Maria Obrębska-Stieber. From 1953-1960 she worked as a designer in the Industrial Design Institute in Warsaw, and from 1960-1991 at the Central Bureau of Light Industrial Design. From 1960-1970 she published drawings from her collection of clothing inspired by folk patterns in the "Kontynenty" monthly magazine. In the 1980s she designed tapestries for Folk Art Cooperatives, including "Ład" and the "Wanda" Workshops.
Author: Anna Demska
Text originally published in Out of the Ordinary. Polish Designers of the 20th Century, edited by Czesława Frejlich and published by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute (Warsaw, 2011) in cooperation with the Karakter publishing house. Translation by Søren Gauger, edited for the purposes of Culture.pl by Agnieszka Le Nart.
For more information on the book, see: www.karakter.pl
(1) They also included: Danuta Dybowska, Krystyna Policzkowska-Gałecka, Danuta Teler-Gęsicka, Kazimiera Gidaszewska, Maria Janowska, Aleksandra Michalak-Lewińska, Anna Nikołajczuk, Danuta Paprowicz-Michno, Alicja Orzechowska, and Bogusław Wyszogrodzki.
(2) Roman Orłow, Działalność Zakładu Tkanin IWP (1951-1953), [in:] "Biuletyn Instytutu Wzornictwa Przemysłowego." Supplement to the "Przegląd włókienniczy," July-August 1954, nos. 5-6, p. 7.
(3) Quoted from Aleksandra Michalak-Lewińska, Porywająca idea, [in:] "Dawnych wspomnień czar… Pierwsze 50 lat Instytutu Wzornictwa Przemysłowego oczami jego pracowników." A collective work edited by Danuta Swirida, pub. on manuscript rights, Warsaw 2005, p. 55
(4) J. Rayzacher, Nowości we wzornictwie tkanin bawełnianych na rok 1958, "Biuletyn Instytutu Wzornictwa Przemysłowego," July 1957, nos. 6-7, p. 14
(5) H. Chwierut-Jasicka, Tkanina malowana i drukowana w zbiorach Ośrodka Wzornictwa Muzeum Narodowego w Warszawie, "Design," 1992, no. 6, p. 26.