Modernism in Fabric: Art and the Tirocchi Textiles
If the Tirocchi clients coveted and collected the highest quality French fashion, they also demanded the best in textiles. Whether a dress was custom-made, created from a "robe," or purchased ready-to-wear, the finest French fabrics were favored for its construction [fig. 147].
French couture held the allure of Paris and all the status that implied, but French silks were valued because of their long-standing reputation for quality and good design. The Tirocchi sisters knew this from their earlier employment in Italy, where French textiles were widely used. From skirt panels of silk net hand-beaded in French workshops in the 1910s to the sumptuous silk and rayon crepes of the 1930s, each textile from A. &L. Tirocchi now preserved in the RISD Museum bespeaks the luxury that radiated from 514 Broadway and endeared the shop to its clientele.
This was not an accident. As fashion became more simplified, as the transition to ready-made garments proceeded, and as it became possible for nearly everybody to wear up-to-date clothing, the quality of a dressmaker's textiles served more and more to maintain social distinctions that were disappearing with regard to the design of clothing itself. Anna Tirocchi, chief creative spirit in the shop and well aware of this fact, purchased the most luxurious and beautifully designed fabrics she could find from the font of all fashion: France. Whether handwoven on the drawlooms of Lyon, or, with increasing frequency in the 1920s, produced on Jacquard looms, the Tirocchi fabrics were the best that France had to offer. Since the late nineteenth century, professional artists had become increasingly interested in designing both apparel and textiles, collaborating with the couturiers of Paris and the skilled weavers of Lyon, who had long been protected by the French government and promoted worldwide for their training and talent.
The selection of fabrics packed away in the A. &L. Tirocchi shop reflects Anna Tirocchi's expert eye for beauty. As with the French couture she sold, the fabrics she chose radiated the excitement of the art world in the early years of the twentieth century, when artists and designers from all over Europe converged on Paris. Painters, printmakers, illustrators, and designers of decorative arts, jewelry, couture, textiles, and theater scenery and costume were often working in all of these areas at once. Also collaborating with literary figures, musicians, composers, dancers, and theatrical entrepreneurs, these artists gave to French design the tremendous burst of creativity and inventive renewal that came to all the arts with the advent of modernism in the early years of the twentieth century.
American admiration of French textiles had been shaped over many years before this creative ferment. Even prior to the American Revolution, when Americans still considered themselves Englishmen, France had been perceived as the capital of luxury, and the English had acquired or copied many Parisian fashions and textiles. A glance at eighteenth-century English terminology gives an idea of the number of fabrics and trims of French origin commonly used in England and America: "French alamode," or black taffeta from Lyon, ordered by Samuel Sewall of Boston in 1690; "serge desoy" for men's coats and waistcoats; "florence légère," fancy silks for sale in the United States in 1797; "jaconot muslin," an inexpensive cotton first made in India but popular in France in the early eighteenth century and ordered by Virginia merchants in 1768 and 1771; "marseilles" for quilted petticoats and coverlets; "siamoises," ordered by Thomas Jefferson as furnishing materials in 1790.(1) Even today, fabrics such as corduroy (corde du roi), manufactured in Rhode Island as early as 1789; piqué (piqué), first imported to the United States in 1779; organdy (organdi), described in a French commercial dictionary of around 1723-30; and the ordinary, but now ubiquitous, denim (de Nîmes, originally serge de Nîmes), from which Levi Strauss made his work clothes for miners during the nineteenth-century North American Gold Rush; all are so familiar that their French origins have been forgotten.(2)
At first, American colonials acquired these luxuries through London, but by the end of the eighteenth century, merchants in the United States were dealing directly with France. John Holker, whose father had a factory for the production of "siamoises" in Rouen from 1752, as French Consul-General had them imported to Philadelphia in 1779 for use by the U.S. government.(3) In 1792, Providence merchant Welcome Arnold advertised the inexpensive woolens, silks, and cottons that he imported from England, but when it was a question of a special dress for his wife Patience, the brocaded fabric and passementerie trim were ordered from Paris.(4) From the colonial era to the present, Americans have looked to France for innovative fashion and other luxury products. Through fashion plates and ladies' magazines, women in America have stayed in touch with Paris, some even traveling to France themselves in search of high-fashion textiles and apparel made to their measure by its couturiers.
Ever since the late seventeenth century, French producers, supported by their government, have made a commitment to good design, backed by a substantial investment in the education of designers. Schools were established in France in the eighteenth century, and manufacturers paid their graduates twice what they were paid in Britain.(5) Lyon generally purchased its textile designs from Paris. It was superior design that kept French products marketable despite the rapid development of mass production in nineteenth-century England. It was superior design that created some of the most memorable textiles ever woven, such as the legendary French silks used by Worth or the Lyon furnishing silks purchased by the Vanderbilts for their "summer cottage," The Breakers in Newport [fig. 148]. By the early twentieth century, however, critics and producers were concerned that French textiles might not be able to maintain their momentum. French weavers were becoming alarmed as the American industry grew, and they also feared competition from producers in Germany and Austria.(6) Anna Tirocchi's forays into the French textile market therefore took place at a critical time for the fast-expanding industry. The battle for French superiority would be fought against the backdrop of general unease in the French design world, of nationalistic desires to develop a truly modern French style, and of emerging modernism and internationalism in the art world.
At the turn of the century, some French designers of textiles and decorative arts were still producing copies of earlier styles, while at the same time artists and dealers such as Siegfried Bing were promoting art nouveau as the modern French style. In a challenge to art nouveau, German and Viennese workshops were developing their own contemporary styles. Founded in 1897 with a roster of artists in many media, Munich's Vereinigten Werkstätten fur Kunst im Handwerk (United Workshops for Art in Handwork) used machine technology to produce objects in the new German Jugendstil, based on the British arts and crafts movement aesthetic of simplicity and appropriateness. Members of the Vienna Secession movement, also founded in 1897, were influenced by William Morris, Walter Crane, and Charles Voysey and also adopted the British aesthetic for their handcrafted products. Characterized by what the French called an "elegant eclecticism," architects and designers created functional modern buildings that reflected their destined use and employed ordinary materials in judicious ways. In the decorative arts, an interest in pattern, flatness, and abstraction was applied to textile design before 1900 with many striking results.
By May 1903, Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann - with funds supplied by Fritz Waerndorfer, Hoffmann's patron, and the advice of Charles Rennie Mackintosh - had founded the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) for "the promotion of the economic interests of its members by training and educating them in handicraft, by the manufacture of craft objects of all sorts in accordance with artistic designs drawn up by Guild members, by the erection of workshops and by the sale of the goods produced." (7) These artists, of similar mind to the founders of the Munich workshops, wanted to institute a particularly Viennese style and to produce ensembles in which all elements would reflect the same aesthetic principles. They looked back to the Biedermeier period of the early nineteenth century as the last great era of genuine Viennese design. Unlike the Munich group, however, the artists of the Wiener Werkstätte regarded the tradition of handcraftsmanship as basic. Machines were used, but the artist maintained complete control over what was produced. Wiener Werkstätte textile and fashion divisions were opened in 1910, and Paris couturier Paul Poiret and Lyon textile manufacturer Charles Bianchini were among the first to visit them.
Critics of French decorative arts urged artists to learn from the effectiveness of the German and Austrian workshops in presenting designs in a single overarching national style. Ironically, French attitudes toward luxury and quality seemed to be part of the problem. French artists, instead of joining to form workshops to produce practical, well-designed objects for the middle class as in Germany and Austria, worked in isolation as fine artists making handcrafted individual pieces aimed at the aristocratic luxury market. French designers decided to band together to form the Société des Artistes Décorateurs in 1901. Artists in many media took part in its exhibitions. Jacques Doucet, Jeanne Paquin, Paul Poiret, Sonia Delaunay, and the American Mainbocher represented fashion over the years, while Émile Jacques Ruhlmann and Louis Süe, among many others, produced ideas for textiles because of their commitment to the decorative arts.(8) This gave designers more visibility through annual exhibitions, but the French still could not agree on a central design philosophy. The debate raged throughout the first decade of the century. What style would be exclusively French and exclusively modern and could compete in the marketplace with industrial creations?
Couturier Paul Poiret, who had been considering these issues even as he looked back to the Empire period for his influential straight loose gowns of 1907, was also acting to develop a new French style in textile design. By 1909, he had already visited Germany, where he showed his collections to great acclaim. There he purchased a group of German and Eastern European decorative arts, which he regarded as akin, in their "primitive" simplicity and vigor, to all of the various artistic expressions manifested by the Ballets Russes, founded by Serge Diaghilev with painter Léon Bakst and choreographer Michel Fokine and then the toast of Paris. In Vienna, Poiret had been captivated by the Wiener Werkstätte with its cooperative spirit among architects (Josef Hoffmann), decorative artists (Dagobert Pêche, Koloman Moser), and painters (Gustav Klimt, whose companion, Emilie Flöge was herself a fashion designer with a salon in Vienna).
In Germany and Austria, Poiret encountered the new modern styles on their own ground. He purchased textiles. He went to every decorative arts exhibition possible, meeting Hermann Muthesius, the Prussian architect and critic; designer Bruno Paul; and Gustav Klimt. He wandered the streets looking at new buildings and visited every recently completed interior to which he could gain admittance. He was especially struck by the products of the Wiener Werkstätte, and on his return to Paris he decided to adopt the Viennese workshop concept and to strive for the freedom and spontaneity he had observed in both French and Eastern European folk art. Poiret rejected the idea of employing highly trained artists or craftsmen. Thinking of the peasants who had made beautiful objects without any formal art education, he decided to experiment with new designs by untrained artists free of what he called "false principles" learned in school.
Poiret sought out young working-class women of artistic talent who could not afford to continue their education, set up a design program for them in his house, and took them to the country; or the zoo; or the Louvre, where they studied Delacroix's composition; or to Notre-Dame de Paris to look at the bright colors of the stained glass windows.(9) They rewarded him with what he considered to be marvelous results, as fresh and spontaneous as nature itself: fields of wheat, daisies, poppies, forests with bounding tigers. All their designs appeared to him to be charming and completely different from any established style, French or foreign. In 1911, aware of the marketing successes of the German and Viennese workshops, which had established boutiques for the sale of their production, he made a collection of textiles and rugs from his protégées' designs for the opening of his own shop, Martine, which was at its height when Anna Tirocchi visited it in the mid-1920s.
In 1909, Poiret became interested in the work of the young French painter Raoul Dufy, whose first efforts at printmaking he had recently seen. Poiret invited Dufy to a dinner party with Poiret's friends poet Max Jacob, decorative artist Louis Süe, and painter Marie Laurençin, there also introducing him to Guillaume Apollinaire. This celebrated poet was then waiting for Pablo Picasso to produce illustrations for his newest volume of verse, Le Bestiaire. Picasso, however, was dragging his feet and had not even begun the work. Apollinaire, who had a printer waiting anxiously for the book, decided to hire Dufy instead.(10)
Dufy's first essays at decorative woodblock prints in large format appealed to Poiret for their echo of German expressionism and for their "primitivism," a quality also instantly apparent to Apollinaire.(11) Dufy and Poiret got along cordially, sharing as they did "the same tendencies in decoration."(12) Dufy, already known as a fauvist painter, was abreast of modernist ideas. He shared with Poiret a profound interest in color, calling it "the creative element of light."(13) Like Poiret, he had traveled in Germany, where he had observed and been impressed by the progress of the decorative arts, particularly as manifested by the Deutscher Werkbund. In 1911, as Le Bestiaire went to press, Poiret hired Dufy to make woodcuts for the letterhead of his business stationery and to design a business card for the Martine shop [fig. 149]. Soon the two men were planning a much more extensive project: a joint enterprise to use Dufy's talents to produce textiles for Poiret's couture house. Always insistent on the importance of bright color, they set up a small workshop, which they called the "Petite Usine" ("Little Factory"), where Dufy could experiment with dyes and hues, in the process learning how to print his woodblocks on silks. Some of the designs were reworked from Le Bestiaire, others were executed especially for Poiret. Dufy also dealt with the couture house of Doeuillet, for which he provided designs in 1911.(14)
Even before his collaboration with Poiret, Dufy had been interested in textile design. In need of money to support himself while he produced the illustrations for Apollinaire's Le Bestiaire, Dufy approached the Lyon silk manufacturer Charles Bianchini with designs for sale. Bianchini had been anxious for some time to restore the reputation of Lyon silks for artistic excellence and was interested in modern design.
The firm of Atuyer, Bianchini, Férier had been founded in 1888 by Bianchini, François Atuyer, and François Férier. Charles Bianchini was the eye behind the design end of the business. In 1892, he had the idea of opening a store in Paris to market his products at fashion's very heart. He was the first Lyon manufacturer to do so. The address of the shop was 24 bis, avenue de l'Opéra, in the same district as the couture houses. In 1897, Bianchini himself moved to Paris, where he directed the store until his death in 1945. This relocation had the advantage of allowing his firm to sell directly to the end-users, the couturiers, without going through the traditional commission merchants, who had formerly been intermediaries between the Lyon manufacturers and the Paris buyers. In 1900, the parent company moved into a new modernist building in the textile sector of the Croix Rousse, high on a hill overlooking the city of Lyon. In 1902, the partners pened branches in London and Brussels, and in 1909 they established an office in New York at 366 Fifth Avenue.(15)
Before 1910, Bianchini had become interested in Viennese design, traveling to the city to purchase sketches made for him by Austrian artists. Some of these he had printed on silk as early as 1907-08 [fig. 150]. He encouraged artists in his own studio to produce work in the Viennese manner and also to design in the new bold colors favored by fauvist painters after 1905. In 1910, when the firm was at the height of its influence, this forward-looking manufacturer printed the first of Dufy's designs for the firm.(16) On March 1, 1912, with Poiret's permission, Bianchini signed Dufy to an exclusive contract, which was to be paid with royalties on sales, an arrangement very unusual for a time when designers normally sold designs to manufacturers outright. This arrangement would continue until Dufy left the company in 1928. In 1912, Dufy was still printing from some of the blocks he had used at the Petite Usine, which came along with him after his work for Poiret; and he was developing many others with the same striking graphic qualities. During the first three years of his contract, Dufy produced more than three hundred sketches, only a few of which were actually produced.(17)
Many of Dufy's most successful patterns employed the new technique of "discharge" printing. The fabric was first dyed "in the piece" after weaving, where formerly the yarn had been dyed before being woven. The richest hues were obtainable only in this manner. Dufy's simple and striking designs were then overprinted onto the ground. The fabric was discharged with bleach to remove the base color wherever necessary, and in the same process bold new dyes were applied according to the patterns cut into the woodblocks [fig. 151]. Dufy's designs had widespread appeal. Paul Poiret continued to use Dufy's patterns, now produced by Bianchini, Férier (the name change occurred upon the death of Atuyer in 1912; the firm today is called Bianchini-Férier). Simple black-and-white prints created by Dufy endured for many years in the company's line. Business records in the Tirocchi Archive show that Anna ordered a printed silk textile with Dufy-like black and white flowers [figs. 151-152] in January of 1923 from a tiny sample sent her by the company. In the same year she purchased a black-and-orange velvet with the same appealing graphic quality [fig. 153]. Neither textile was among those for which Dufy was paid, according to Bianchini, Férier's records, but each demonstrates the power of Dufy's designs to affect the entire line of the company.
In 1951, RISD's Museum purchased a collection of more than four hundred silks from the Lyon firm of Guard Frères, all of which came from Atuyer, Bianchini, Férier and date to its early years. Dufy's hand is evident in a number of them, all but a few of which are printed on plain-weave silk. Thanks to the survival of the Bianchini, Férier records, many of the RISD textiles have been found to date to the period of Bianchini's first experiments with modern design. The RISD textiles are samples for salesmen, who carried them along as they traversed their territories, or sent them to clients in book form [figs. 154-155]. In Anna Tirocchi's case, her contact (called a "drummer") was J. J. Hannock, who would frequently visit the shop to show his sample swatches or to deliver fabrics by hand from New York. When new sample books came out, Hannock requested that Anna throw the outdated versions away. Unfortunately for this history, she did dispose of something for once in her life, and none were found in the shop when its contents were presented to RISD in 1989.
It is clear that Charles Bianchini's employment of Dufy was an inspiration to other Lyon silk manufacturers. By hiring Dufy, Bianchini pointed to a possible way of restoring Lyon to its former status as the producer of the best-designed silks in the world: the adoption of modernist patterns created by French artists to achieve a contemporary and uniquely French style recognizable to all. Certainly Dufy's creations were unlike anything produced in the workshops of Vienna or Germany, nor could English silks be compared in any way to his designs. Bianchini built on his success with Dufy's textiles by hiring other Parisian artists. All were illustrators or avant-garde painters, and many in addition were fashion illustrators, fashion designers, or theatrical costume designers. Several also exhibited at the salons of the Société des Artistes Décorateurs, demonstrating once again the close connections between the textile and fashion spheres and the world of early modernist art and design.
Before beginning to design for Bianchini, Férier in 1912, Paul Iribe had been a newspaper typographer and magazine illustrator. In 1906, he founded the satirical journal Le Témoin, in which he collaborated with many avant-garde artists, including Jean Cocteau, Marcel Duchamp, André Dunoyer de Segonzac, Lyonel Feininger, and Juan Gris. He continued to produce illustrations throughout his career for the Gazette du Bon Ton and other magazines. In 1908, Paul Poiret commissioned the young artist to produce illustrations for a brochure on his collections, Les Robes des Paul Poiret, racontées par Paul Iribe, consisting solely of Iribe's plates in the new pochoir stencil technique [fig. 156]. Its success made Iribe famous, and the work became a model for subsequent illustrators.(18) After 1910, he designed jewelry, furniture, and other objects, and in 1912, he opened a shop in the Faubourg St. Honoré, where he sold textiles printed to his designs by Bianchini, Férier. From this shop he refurnished the apartment of couturier Jacques Doucet, who, having sold his extensive collection of eighteenth-century furnishings, opted for the ultramodern and began to acquire a collection of Oriental and tribal art and cubist painting. Iribe stopped designing for Bianchini, Ferier after his move to New York following the First World War. In the United States, he became well known for his illustrations in Vogue and his costume and set designs for the theater and for Hollywood producer Cecil B. DeMille. On his return to France in 1930, he created a line of jewelry for Gabrielle Chanel.(19) Iribe's textile designs often incorporated his modernistic rose [fig. 157].
Charles Martin had been a friend of artists Georges Lepape, André Marty, and Pierre Brissaud since their student days at the Atelier Cormon in Paris, and he worked with them as one of the creators of pochoir illustrations for the fashion magazines that emerged around 1912, particularly the Gazette du Bon Ton [fig. 158]. Like these artists, he also designed posters, furniture, and wallpaper. As a member in good standing of the modernist movement, which brought together artists in all media, he collaborated with composer Erik Satie to illustrate Satie's Sports et Divertissements of 1914. Martin also designed theatrical sets and costumes. Charles Bianchini printed his design of ladies and gentlemen in a garden on silk [fig. 159].
Bianchini began purchasing designs from Robert Bonfils in 1920. Also an illustrator and exhibitor at the salons of the Société des Artistes Décorateurs from 1912 onwards, Bonfils, like Martin, was a frequent contributor to French fashion magazines, including the Gazette du Bon Ton and Modes et Manières d'Aujourd'hui. Bonfils designed everything from textiles with exotic and tropical themes to tiny floral prints for Bianchini, Férier. A silk from the Lyon group at RISD bears Bonfils's design of horsemen, printed on a damask designed by Raoul Dufy and dating to about 1920 [fig. 160]. Some of the other artists employed by Bianchini included Russian avant-garde painter Paul Mansouroff; painter/illustrators Georges Barbier, E. A. Seguy, and Henri Gillet; and decorative artists Madeleine Lagrange and Jules Leleu.
Meanwhile, other companies became interested in modernist fabrics. François Ducharne, a merchant who had been selling Lyon silks in Paris and the United States, decided in 1920 to found his own factory and to use modernist methods. He hired the talented weaver Michel Dubost as head of the studio. Dubost was a specialist in brocaded textiles and other patterned weavings and a former professor of design. No doubt inspired by Poiret's school, which Dubost and his students visited annually, this atelier was also structured as a "school for designers," but limited to textile applications.(20) Dubost hired young men and women without formal artistic training and put them in a Paris studio deliberately located in the artists' quarter of Montmartre, where they came in contact with such figures as the writers Gabrielle Colette and Romain Rolland and couturier Madeleine Vionnet, all of whom were brought to the studio by Ducharne. At first Dubost himself did much of the designing for production in Lyon, but the heavy, often stiff silks with large patterns that were his specialty gradually fell out of style in the mid-1920s with the advent of short skirts and the chemise silhouette. Printed silks took on a great importance, and Ducharne was quick to establish the company in this area. By the late 1920s, styles had changed again. Dresses became streamlined, cut on the bias so that they clung to and moved with the body. These required very lightweight fabrics such as crepes, crepes de Chine, and tissue satins. As the 1930s progressed, Soieries F. Ducharne produced more and more prints in medium and small scales, including many for couturieres such as Madeleine Vionnet and Elsa Schiaparelli.
The Tirocchi collection includes several silks that illustrate how these fashion changes affected the Ducharne firm. Anna Tirocchi began buying silks through Ducharne's New York office in 1930, but she visited the company in Paris during either or both of her trips in 1924 and 1926-27. Marginal notes in Ducharne's sample books at the Musée des Tissus de Lyon show that other suppliers with whom Anna dealt were also purchasing designs from this company, so that she may have obtained the earlier examples from Harry Angelo Company or B. Altman in New York. From Ducharne's winter collection of 1922, she purchased a bolt of purple velvet on silver lamé in a large modernist pattern attributed to Dubost and abstracted from a typical Renaisssance velvet design. It was a favorite of François Ducharne, who gave an example in orange and gold to the Musée des Tissus de Lyon in the same year [fig. 161]. This large pattern typifies products of his design studio at this early date and mirrors the production of other Lyon companies. Also found in the Tirocchi shop were a number of Ducharne silks dating to 1930, all of them printed. These silks are fluid, lightweight fabrics, such as a chevron-patterned tissue silk velvet that appeared in a Ducharne sample book of 1930 and a bolt of black silk crepe de Chine with polychrome roses discharge-printed on a black ground [fig. 162], billed to Anna by Ducharne in 1930.(21) The lightness of the fabrics made them suitable for the new, draped styles, while their smaller patterns and realistic flowers show a turning away from the "moderne" style that had appeared in the 1920s.
Rodier, long a household word in France for its textile production, was another source of modern fabric designs for the Tirocchis. Rodier came into being in 1810 with the development of a French version of the fashionable imported Kashmir shawl. Known for its woolens through the years, but especially for its brand-name cashmere fabric "Kasha," Rodier continued to have its woolen cloth woven on handlooms in villages surrounding its mechanized factory at Bohain in the north of France. Although the area was occupied during the First World War - Lyon was not - and the firm's production halted, Paul Rodier was able to save his designs and records and to make a swift recovery afterward. By February 1924, when Anna Tirocchi visited its Paris shop, Rodier had become a leader in the production of woolens with modernist geometric patterns and of couture silk fabrics and scarves that Gabrielle Colette, always interested in textiles, described as "gaie, délicate, éclatante." Colette, however, reserved her highest praise for Rodier's woolens:
Despite the bold, modern design, meticulously prepared raw material, and complicated dye chemistry of such fabrics; inspired by the landscape, impregnated with an agrarian poetry, they seem to me like old friends...More than that, a touch both humble and divine remains upon them: the touch of the hand.(22)
In the 1920s, Anna Tirocchi purchased woolens embellished with metal threads, wool plaids and tweeds, and printed silks from Rodier, in addition to Rodier's "Kasha" cloth bought from B. Altman &Company. The latter was a favorite of her customers for winter suits and afternoon dresses. A suit made of heavier tweed attributed to Rodier, found in the shop and now in RISD's collection, represents the earthier, landscape-inspired woolens that impressed Colette [fig. 163].
The Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, sponsored by the French government in 1925, gave worldwide publicity to the "moderne" style. In the exhibition, the categories of textiles and wallpaper were combined because of their similar graphic qualities and printing techniques. More than a thousand exhibitors showed their work. The published summary of the exposition credited the high quality of French contributions not only to the fact that French artists were at last being sought out by manufacturers, but also to the production of textiles by many small ateliers, in contrast to the very large mechanized factories in German cities such as Krefeld. In addition, the exigencies of the couture and interior-decoration industries in Paris meant that French products were always changing as the textile industry renewed itself each year.(23)
The writers of the exposition's summary offered a brief definition of the "moderne" style. Its principal characteristic, according to them, was the abstraction inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh's earlier Glasgow school and by the Viennese and German workshop movements, which had seemed so revolutionary in 1900. By 1920, abstraction was a commonplace, even in floral patterns. Designers had "revived, with a modern accent, the garland, the knot, the rose, the attributes of doves, fans, and cupids, dear to the designers of the eighteenth century."Some had recently adopted the "disassociation of volumes and lines of cubism," creating a "kaleidoscope of lines and colors, richer in decorative possibilities than realistic subjects."The exposition included designs based on cubist concern with the exotic and the "primitive." The summary's authors praised Rodier especially for their textiles based on the art of Cambodia, Vietnam, Guinea, and the Congo. Objects from these cultures had been on view at the Exposition of Marseille in 1922, which presented the indigenous products of the French colonies. Rodier was also the firm that produced fabrics in the brightest, strongest colors, inspiring the authors to marvel that "a dress from their designers is almost a painting."(24) Anna Tirocchi purchased at least two Rodier textiles that reflect this trend [fig. 164].
Exhibitors of textiles included the four largest French firms: Bianchini, Férier, represented by Dufy's works; Soieries F. Ducharne; Coudurier-Fructus-Descher, which displayed lamé shawls and textiles with complicated brocading in gold and silver combined with printing; and Rodier, whose handwoven cottons, rayons, and woolens displayed designs inspired by everything from Hungarian and North African embroideries to the art of the Far East. Many lesser known firms also exhibited, such as Algoud et Joannon, l'Alliance Textile, J. Barret, Blech Frères, Henri Chanée, and Brunet, Meunie et Compagnie.
Some of the new design developments in evidence at the Exposition were credited by its committee to technological advances at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. The dyeing of fabrics in the piece was a major step forward. Earlier, the yarns for textiles had to be dyed before the piece was woven (yarn dyeing), because the technology of vat dyeing lagged behind that of machine weaving: the fifty- or sixty-yard pieces that came off the Jacquard loom were too voluminous to fit into the available vats. By the mid-nineteenth century, larger vats were available and the cloth could be dyed after weaving, making possible brilliant color effects previously unobtainable. Not only did piece dyeing allow the production of the saturated colors preferred by artists such as Dufy, but it also enabled manufacturers to add more twist to their yarns during spinning. Bette Kirke, in her work on couturiere Madeleine Vionnet, explains how this came about. "When dyed after twisting,...yarns tended to untwist. With the development of larger vats, cloth could be piece dyed and the amount of twist of the yarn was no longer limited. It was possible then to twist up to 3,000 turns per meter...The suppleness obtained would replace the previous stiff character of silks."(25) The result was crepe with much more elasticity, or crepe de Chine, whose delicate hand resulted from the alternation of weft threads highly twisted in different directions, allowing the construction of the beautiful bias-cut styles of the 1930s.
The perfecting of various machine techniques made possible new types of textiles. Refinements to the Jacquard loom resulted in the gauzes, mousselines, and ultralight chiffons that became available only in the twentieth century. Panne velvet represented an innovation in a finishing technique: a machine could now flatten the velvet pile in one direction, creating suppleness and a metallic-looking sheen that was especially appealing to contemporary eyes accustomed to the machine aesthetic. The use of metal threads themselves in fabrics was not a new technology. The eighteenth century had brought to perfection "cloth of gold" that glittered and gleamed under the candlelight. The early twentieth century joined metallic threads to the brilliant colors possible with new dyeing and printing techniques to make fluid lamés with gold and silver threads in either weft or warp, another innovation of the 1920s. The chroniclers of the Exposition reserved special praise for designer Michel Dubost at Ducharne for his combinations of printing and brocading. This type of fabric is well represented among the Tirocchi textiles with many spectacular lengths that show off the strengths of the Jacquard loom [cover and fig. 147, p. 172; fig. 172, p. 197; fig. 178, p. 200; fig. 179, p. 201]. A bolt of lace from the period reveals progress in this area as well. The "Leavers" lace machine was a nineteenth-century invention, but the Dognin-Racine company in Lyon, which specialized in machine-made laces, brought the process to new heights with a bolt of rayon lace with many different weaving techniques shaping a pattern of abstract, bizarre poppies. The lace, dyed brown, then discharged and printed in red, orange, and yellow according to each floral motif, is a tour de force [fig. 165].
Anna Tirocchi patronized "the big four" textile manufacturers over the years. In 1916, she was already purchasing silk surahs from Bianchini, Férier through their office in New York. Before the Exposition of 1925, she had purchased matelassés, printed crepes and crepes patterned on the loom, and brocaded lamés. A letter of August 25, 1923, notifies Anna of the dispatch from New York to Providence of sample books for "Chiffon Cascadeuse," "Crêpe Romain," "Crêpe Éclatante," "Satin Ondoyant," "Fulgurante," "Moiré Mousmée," and "Velours Paradis." This letter reveals how the company was aiming through its product names to indicate the suppleness (cascadeuse, ondoyant) and metallic shine (éclatante, fulgurante) of its fabrics - an example of marketing the "moderne" that was widespread in industry.
Although Anna purchased many textiles directly from the French manufacturers, she also had other sources. B. Altman &Company, the New York department store, was a supplier of yard goods such as cretonne, serge, and lace throughout Anna's career. Anna also patronized John Wanamaker, the fabled Philadelphia department store with a branch in New York. John Wanamaker was the first department store to set up an office for its buyers in Paris, the first to have a resident buyer there, and the first American store to import couture directly for sale in its Philadelphia and New York stores. From 1915, John Wanamaker was a source for silks of all kinds, including pongees, velvets, and brocades, as well as ribbon trims.
A third class of suppliers for the Tirocchi shop was American importing firms with offices in New York and Paris, where they purchased textiles from firms such as Soieries F. Ducharne and Bianchini, Férier for resale in America. Anna's most important source was Harry Angelo Company, from whom she purchased textiles, "robes" (pre-embroidered fabrics for dresses), and Paris imports or copies throughout her career. In 1915, for example, Anna purchased nearly $3,000 worth of laces, trims, skirt panels, chiffons, and other textiles, while her next most important supplier, the venerable Haas Brothers, who had been operating a dry-goods store in New York since 1879, billed her for only half that amount for laces, silks, georgettes, and nets. John Wanamaker was a distant third with only $604 worth of trims, pongees, crepes, and other silks. Anna and Laura Tirocchi traveled to Paris in 1924 and 1926-27 to make purchases directly from the Paris offices of the French firms described above.
Over the years, Anna bought thousands of textiles, most of which she sold to clients and some of which she returned, although many were still in the shop at her death and are now in RISD's collection. Taken together, they show the design developments of the thirty-odd years of the Tirocchi shop's operation. The textiles reflect not only the development of new technology during the period, but are clear evidence of the advent of modernism and the various styles that it spawned in art as well as decoration. Little remained in the shop from before 1920, but a few pieces are dated by an inventory completed in or about that year. These include several embroidered net borders and lengths patterned with traditional and modern motifs. A length of "Meteor" lace purchased from Maginnis &Thomas has an "amoeba" pattern that suggests the sculptures of Jean Arp and anticipates surrealist designs of the 1930s [fig. 166]. Two cut panels of silk with gold lamé have a stepped motif that foreshadows the "skyscraper" patterns of the late 1920s and 30s [fig. 167]. Geometric patterns also appear among these textiles, while tradition is continued in allover seed beading, florals, and chinoiserie patterns in this inventory, which also includes many examples of machine-made laces, ribbons, and silks.
The 1920s, the heyday of the shop, are represented by hundreds of pieces in the myriad of patterns common to that decade. Many textiles showing an Asian influence reflect artistic trends that predate the early twentieth century. The popularity of chinoiserie (objects or decoration in a "Westernized" Chinese style) in European art dates to the eighteenth century. When Chinese art and decorative objects began to flow into Europe in the sixteenth century, stylized chrysanthemums, Chinese fret patterns, and slim Chinese figures became a recognizable vocabulary in Western decorative arts. Particularly in the eighteenth century, furniture in the Chinese "taste," French wallpapers replete with Chinese scenes, porcelain dining services decorated with Chinese motifs, and silk textiles and ceramics painted in China for the Western market had an important influence in Britain and America, one that has infused and enlivened the decorative arts from that time until this. A "robe" dating to the mid-1920s from the Tirocchi shop is embroidered with pink, green, yellow, and ivory chinoiserie flowers and may even have been embroidered in China for the Western market. This was not a new practice: pre-embroidered pieces of fabric for clothing exist in indigenous Chinese styles from the eighteenth century. These were primarily used for imperial and official robes and may even have been common well before that time. A second chinoiserie found in the Tirocchi shop is but a fragment of what must have been a spectacular chemise dress: its exotic bird is beaded and sequined to create the maximum shine and glitter [fig. 168]. One final example is a supple silk velvet with abstract variations on the Chinese fret pattern in the bright, penetrating colors typical of French art of the time [fig. 169].
Egyptian, Indian, and Persian motifs also appear as decorative elements among the Tirocchi textiles, reflecting an interest in the art of these nations that extends back at least to the early nineteenth century. The arts of Egypt in particular were an important influence on the early nineteenth-century Empire style after Napoleon's conquest of Egypt in the 1790s, but Persian designs were also part of this vocabulary. Increasingly, Indian elements such as "paisley" patterns came into French design after Napoleon presented his wife Josephine with Kashmir shawls that he had obtained in Egypt. French artists of the early twentieth century looked upon the Empire style as the last great truly French style, and, like couturier Paul Poiret, appropriated it for their own use. The taste for things Egyptian was given further impetus by the discovery and opening in 1922 of the tomb of King Tutankhamen with its rich cache of objects. By the mid-1920s, "Egyptomania" was in full swing. A silk border print in the Tirocchi collection imitates the wall painting, architectural ornament, and decorative art of ancient Egypt with its linear vertical arrangements of plant elements [fig. 170]. Scarabs (ancient "good-luck" charms in the form of dung beetles) are common among the dress trims found in the Tirocchi shop, sometimes made of paste to be stitched at necklines, formed as belt buckles, or rendered in beading on fabric patches to be sewn down as decorative devices [fig. 171].
Japanese influence is also evident among the textiles purchased by Anna and Laura Tirocchi. Japonism in the Tirocchi holdings reflects a more recent development in the art world, but still one that predates the shop's existence. Japanese art began to filter into the West in the nineteenth century before 1854, the official opening of Japan to Western trade after more than two hundred years of self-enforced isolation. Japanese painting and woodblock prints, in particular, were collected by some painters and influenced the work of many others in the second half of the nineteenth century. Collectors such as Boston's Edward Morse and the great Parisian art dealer Siegfried Bing brought Japanese art objects to the attention of the public in America and France, inspiring the use of Japanese techniques and motifs - paper parasols, cherry blossoms, water lilies, grasses, dragonflies, among others - in metalwork, printmaking, and the decorative arts, including textiles. Japanese patterns for stenciled textiles were also copied and adapted by Westerners. Japanese influence is evident in the pochoir fashion illustrations produced by Paul Iribe and others after about 1910, with their large, flat expanses of color; black outlining; lack of perspective; and other abstract qualities; and is also evident in the kimono-style dresses produced by couturiers in the early 1910s.
Among the Tirocchi fabrics is a complex lightweight gold-and-black silk lamé, which has been dyed, discharged, and printed with a polychrome floral design in the Japanese taste [fig. 172]. A second textile of shiny brown silk satin has Japanese weeping willows and rippled pools of water in its damask patterning [fig. 173]. Several lengths from the Tirocchi shop were actually made in Japan, an interesting reminder of Japan's desire to reach Western markets in this period.
Many textiles in the Tirocchi shop reflect the styles of early modernism. A "robe" of about 1926 shows the strict geometric grid and stylized floral pattern so often seen in designs before 1920 from the Wiener Werkstätte, particularly those of Josef Hoffmann, Kolomon Moser, and Gustav Kalhammer for furniture, textiles, and graphic arts [figs. 174- 175]. Cubism also had its influence on fabric design, not only through its relation to modernist design principles, but also through the "primitive" art it drew upon for inspiration. Cubist admiration for the "primitive" emerges in many textiles of African and "exotic" derivation, such as a "robe" from the French embroiderers Maurice Lefranc et Compagnie with an embroidered motif and tassel based on North African patterns [fig. 176]. A bolt of silk velvet shows African shield forms combined with tiger pelts in its wide border [fig. 177]. From Bianchini, Férier came a snakeskin printed fabric with gold threads that Anna purchased in August 1926, one of many reptile-skin patterns made by several companies in the late 1920s. This silk fabric was aptly named "Fluidor"("Liquid Gold") by Bianchini, Férier to indicate its luxurious quality to customers. A staple of their line, the fabric was still being made in the 1990s.(26)
Also reflecting the cubist preoccupation with the "primitive," textile designers sought new aesthetic elements in European "peasant" cultures in the early years of the century. Paul Poiret was at the forefront of this search in France, having traveled to Germany and Eastern Europe and collected peasant art. Further impetus came in 1909 with the first Paris performances of the Ballets Russes, whose folk costumes, brightly colored scenery, and lusty Russian designs created as much a sensation as the panache of its legendary dancers. (Russia attracted further attention as a source when constructivist artists arrived in Paris after the Russian Revolution in 1917.) Many textiles in RISD's Tirocchi holdings have motifs drawn from peasant art. Several "robes" present such elements of the "primitive" as cut-leather sequins, wooden beads, and brightly colored ribbons. One silk textile displays the onion-domed churches of Moscow in brocaded patterning done on a Jacquard loom in a Lyon studio. Combined in a cubist-inspired abstract row, its buildings are flattened and lacking in realistic perspective, an exotic fantasy world of violent color contrasts in orange and green [fig. 178].
Abstract shapes are often seen in the Tirocchi textiles. Perhaps the most beautiful and complex fabric found in the Tirocchi shop is a silver lamé with exquisite "cubist" pattern [cover and fig. 179]. The "leaves" are mere suggestions of natural forms, combined in a manner that denies realistic perspective, but they create a kaleidoscope of shapes and colors, much as do Henri Le Fauconnier's swirls in his Mountaineers Attacked by Bears of 1910-12 [fig. 180]. The unknown designer of the fabric has taken advantage of the fact that the Jacquard loom can lift each warp independently, creating the effect of scattered pinpoints of light where the silver thread appears on the surface. The blue dye of the ground has then been discharged with bleach and overprinted to create an abstract, modernist pattern. A dress trim based on abstract geometric figures exhibits simple rectangles and circles, which, while oriented in unexpected ways, remain in the band demarcated by the edges of the trim, a flat assemblage of forms [fig. 181]. Collage is the basic reference for a "robe" of red chiffon [fig. 182] with a skirt composed of separate leaves sewn onto a base fabric.
Two textiles based on abstract geometric forms show different ways of treating lines and grids according to cubist principles. A fragment of heavy wool fabric is marked by a linear grid and straight lines, creating an abstract composition in black, gray, and white. Probably from Rodier, it resembles the many identified abstract patterns that were the mainstay of this company in the early to middle 1920s, while its handwoven look is a Rodier trademark [fig. 183]. A printed organdy's patterning might suggest that it had been based on a simple plaid, but the straight lines of the plaid have been displaced and its grid splintered into fragments, which form an intriguing abstraction that nevertheless clings to the flat plane of the fabric [fig. 184], instead of emerging energetically like the optically illusionary Rodier wool. The organdy's abstract forms owe a debt to constructivist art with its painterly yet fanciful devices [fig. 185].
By the middle of the 1920s, modernism was firmly established, and French textile artists had adopted abstraction and flat patterning from it. Merging these principles with the intense colors first promoted by Matisse and the fauvists in 1905 and incorporating a taste for the hard-edged shine of a new "machine-age" aesthetic coming from America, French decorative design finally achieved its much desired new national style. The "moderne," familiar also by its later sobriquet of "Art Deco," is widely reflected in some of the most spectacular and luxurious textiles found in the Tirocchi shop. The "moderne" flower, actually derived from flowers drawn by Scottish artist/architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the 1890s, was adopted by French artists before 1910. This flower appears in many Tirocchi textiles, including "robes," laces, and printed fabrics. An unmade black velvet "robe" has not only the "moderne" flower, but also shows its debt to peasant art with its brightly colored embroidery of thick silk floss [fig. 186]. Another version exists in a stiff gold lamé cloth of about 1925 with patterning wefts tied into stripes of black, blue, red, white, and green Jacquard twill. By 1931, fabrics had become much lighter in weight, but the "moderne" flower was still popular. Another textile, purchased from the New York importing company of Harry Angelo in 1931, bears "moderne" flowers with hard edges typical of the more rigidly outlined "machine-age" imagery [fig. 187]. With its supple hand, it would have been appropriate for a draped dress with that year's fluid silhouette.
An outstanding characteristic of "moderne" French fabrics is their out-and-out luxury. By this time, the French textile industry had long since reestablished itself worldwide as the primary supplier of sumptuous fabrics for fashion. Anna and Laura Tirocchi were quick to profit from this. In 1929, Anna Tirocchi ordered a fabric from Bianchini, Férier that was of unparalleled richness. A black silk chiffon, completely encrusted with brocaded gold threads in a geometric pattern, it was made into a garment and sold immediately to a client [fig. 188]. Another fabric dates from March 1929 and was imported by the Harry Angelo Company. It is a "robe" with a black chiffon bodice, down to tunic length, which is embroidered with thousands of tiny white seed beads in a scroll pattern [fig. 189]. When sewn together, the dress would have had a softly full short skirt of plain black chiffon. The cost to Anna Tirocchi was $39.50. A third example of the French idea of chic luxury is a "robe" dated to fall 1932, also from Harry Angelo Company. By this time, hemlines had descended and the silhouette was closer to the body. This unmade jacket is of a black silk crepe embroidered in stylized roundels reminiscent of Chinese design [fig. 190], a bargain at only $20. The fabric, sewn to a buckram band, was accompanied by a drawing of the jacket the Tirocchis were to produce from it, tight to the body, but with long, full sleeves, the better to show off the large expanses of black and gold. These fabrics form a perfect advertisement for the newly rejuvenated French textile industry and illustrate in an immediate way the reason French textiles were so beloved by the elite Tirocchi clientele.
In the 1920s, dress trims, clips, and jewelry echoed textile motifs. They illustrate in a most charmingly miniature form some of the artistic concerns of the era. A Japonist dress ornament with a cream-colored figure of a Japanese woman and child attached to a dark medallion is a particularly appealing detail [fig. 191]. Its tag reveals that Anna patronized other establishments besides suppliers to the couture. According to its attached tag (not shown), she purchased the medallion in Paris on the third floor of the Printemps department store; thus it must date to 1924 or 1926-27, the dates of her two trips to the city. Another ornament, a large plaque with Chinese lettering and a long black silk fringe and lacquered beads, reflects the popularity of Oriental motifs of all kinds.
"Machine-age" motifs of the 1930s seem particularly suited to jeweled trims. The geometric arrangements of rhinestones found in two pieces from the Tirocchi shop reflect this purist aesthetic. Their quintessential Art Deco look is based on the strict alignment of simple components: circles, rectangles, and straight lines. One, a belt buckle, is based on a pattern of interrelated circles and rectangles [fig. 192], while a pin is set with rhinestones in a step-back pattern that echoes skyscraper designs [fig. 193]. They seem especially designed to add sophistication and glitter to a classic streamlined black gown of the 1930s. The Tirocchis kept many of these pieces in small trays covered in black that showed off the modernist designs to perfection [fig. 194]. Among the jewelry is a small pin with steely glitter and purity of line reminiscent of nothing so much as the wheels and struts of America's streamlined locomotives [fig. 195]. Like much of the jewelry from the shop, it is an example of pure "machine-age" inspiration.
By the end of the 1920s, Anna Tirocchi was purchasing fewer and fewer textiles to make up and more and more ready-to-wear. The fabrics in the shop from 1930 on include many plain-colored crepes and satins, appropriate for the new streamlined silhouette that looked to "machine-age" designs, for Anna continued to custom-make some outfits, mainly for older clients. Not all plain-colored fabrics were unadorned, however. A sumptuous navy silk damask with a large pattern of floral cornucopias that harks back to seventeenth-century textile design came from importer Robert Gussaroff of New York around 1932 [fig. 196].
Printed silks continued to be an important part of Anna's textile purchases, but abstract "moderne" florals such as the one illustrated in figure 187 (p. 204) were giving way to traditional, realistic flower prints that had, despite modernism, remained popular all through the 1920s. The change to lighter-weight fabrics brought about an adjustment in pattern size. The large-scale, heavy lamés that prevailed in the early 1920s gave way to smaller designs, a decrease in the use of metallic yarns, and generally more flexible fabrics. Printed plain-weave silks and lightweight crepes were strewn with flowers in small motifs [fig. 197], unlike the elaborate garden effect of some 1920s floral lamés. Anna Tirocchi's selections were right up to the moment, and they paralleled developments in the French textile firms that were the source of most fabrics sold in Europe and New York.
A glance at the records of two of the "big four" textile firms shows how closely Anna followed French design trends over the years and how precisely her choices reflected the advent of modernism in French design. Bianchini, Férier's records have survived, including sample books and sketches from the date of the firm's founding in 1888, and cover the entire period of operation of the Tirocchi shop. From the beginning, Charles Bianchini had shown his interest in novelty. In 1889, one of the most interesting textiles in the Paris Universal Exposition was a design in which he rejected the revivalism that permeated the period, opting for a pattern of chrysanthemums in the Japanese "taste." In 1900, he was still purchasing Japonist designs, but he also chose patterns with English influence that incorporated the stylized plant forms of William Morris, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Liberty of London. Modernism was already underway at Atuyer, Bianchini, Férier even at this early date. Charles Bianchini responded quickly to avant-garde design trends. In 1907, his firm's first peasant designs appeared, anticipating the move to bold colors that would be stimulated by the 1909 Paris performances of the Ballets Russes. In 1910, art nouveau was nearly gone from Bianchini's repertoire, with only three patterns in contrast to at least twelve in 1900. At the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, he was interested not only in patterns in Morris and Liberty of London styles, but also in bold geometrics with Wiener Werkstätte influence and equally bold flat-patterned florals.
Bianchini, Férier's "Grands Livres" contain swatches of the textiles that were produced from this early period, showing how modernism blossomed at the company. The company's books of printed designs, "Impression," begin before 1910 and show Charles Bianchini's wonderful eye for graphic patterns that could be used to create elegant and unusual clothing. Printed textiles were his strength, and these record books present one after another in samples measuring about eighteen inches square. The earliest books already display printed Viennese-style patterns derived from his cache of designs purchased in Austria. A floral related to Gustav Klimt's style appears in the very first book [see fig. 150, p. 178], along with patterns derived from exotic batiks from Indonesia, velvets with Persian patterns, and, more traditionally, indienne prints that reflected the design of eighteenth-century toiles de Jouy, derived from fabrics imported from India in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Flower patterns are the most common, together with Medieval- and Renaissance-revival styles and the occasional Eastern European peasant pattern.
Many realistic flower patterns represent a tradition that does not decline over the years, but as the 1910s advance, more and more abstract "moderne" florals appear. Bright and dark jeweled-tone colors arrive in the second book, reflecting the influence of the fauvist painters. Even chinoiserie patterns take on these colorations, giving a modernist look to the most traditional of designs [fig. 198]. In the third book, which encompasses the years 1910-12, designs by both Raoul Dufy and Paul Iribe appear, and "moderne" florals roughly equal the number of traditional designs.
In the following books, "Viennese" designs continue to appear, but a new and brilliant combination of weaving and printing techniques emerges around 1913. Bianchini had arrived at the idea of chinoiserie patterns printed on velvets with voided Renaissance-revival patterns, large florals printed on damask patterned with "paisley" designs derived from Kashmir shawls, even florals by Raoul Dufy printed on velvets with huge Renaissance-inspired patterns [fig. 199]. These are perhaps Bianchini, Férier's masterpieces, produced only during the 1910s and early 1920s. The imaginative superimposition of patterning creates many levels and points of view, echoing modernist concerns and creating an interesting textile counterpart to the cubist method of collage.
Pattern sample books with textile swatches have also been preserved from the Lyon company of Coudurier-Fructus-Descher in the Musée des Tissus de Lyon. Coudurier-Fructus-Descher, like Atuyer, Bianchini, Férier, responded to developments in the art world, but perhaps less immediately. Its early books reveal many revival designs, from lacy eighteenth-century brocaded silks to Renaissance-revival lamés and realistic florals. Like Atuyer, Bianchini, Férier, Coudurier-Fructus-Descher was a exponent of Japonist and art nouveau patterns in 1900, but it is clear that this house also was responding to textile design influences from abroad, especially Britain. The English influence is explicit, as with the product names that include the famous arts and crafts London department store by name: "Liberty Imprimé," "Liberty Cachemire," or "Satin Liberty," indicating types of woven textiles rather than patterns. Far fewer Coudurier-Fructus-Descher patterns were forward-looking before 1910 than those of Atuyer, Bianchini, Férier.
In 1910, pastel colors predominate, and fabric weights are medium to heavy, even for summer. The modern world begins to creep into Coudurier-Fructus-Descher's products, if only into their names. "Toile auto," "twill flyer," and "moiré radium" all reflect contemporary developments. "Satin Marconi" exhibits an undulating wave pattern that the designer must have thought related to telegraphic transmission or to sound waves. Art nouveau patterns occasionally appear, but there are only two abstract florals or patterns influenced by Charles Rennie Mackintosh [fig. 200]. The following year, 1911, saw a number of modernist changes. In the winter of 1910, four years later than at Atuyer, Bianchini, Férier, bright colors make an entrance: purples, oranges, greens, and reds that reflect the bright unreality of the fauvist painters. Coudurier-Fructus-Descher's metallic lamés now have large areas of glittering gold and silver or patterns in satin weave in stylized floral and Kashmir patterns, reflecting a growing taste for shiny surfaces that previews the coming "machine-age" aesthetic. Abstract motifs also begin to appear. Of 106 patterns produced for winter 1910-11, 14 were decidedly modernistic, ranging from "electric" zig-zags to "Russian" florals in bright peasant colors. In summer 1911, a few small abstract florals reflecting the style of Raoul Dufy's designs for Atuyer, Bianchini, Férier begin to appear in Coudurier-Fructus-Descher's line. The overall predominance of small- and medium-scale traditional patterns continues, however, with only 35 abstract floral patterns out of 198 textiles produced for that season.
By 1915, when the Tirocchi shop opened at 514 Broadway, "moderne" patterns were still the exception rather than the rule. Only 22 of 126 patterns produced by Coudurier-Fructus-Descher for summer 1915 were "moderne,"but the abstract, stylized flower was prominent among them. By contrast, the Bianchini, Férier book for 1915 has twice as many "moderne" as traditional florals and includes more than twenty-five abstract geometric designs.
During the late 1910s and after the First World War, French textiles underwent a change in scale. By 1920, both Coudurier-Fructus-Descher and Bianchini, Férier's books included many huge floral, Kashmir, and chinoiserie patterns. The scale of these patterns had expanded greatly since 1915, and the weight of the fabrics had shifted from medium-to-heavy to medium-to-light. By now, Coudurier-Fructus-Descher had accepted modernist principles, and fully sixty-four patterns represent "moderne" design, including one printed textile with huge flowers [fig. 201] not unlike the fabric used by the Tirocchis for an opera coat [fig. 147, p. 172]. In contrast to Bianchini, Férier, Coudurier-Fructus-Descher was finding its niche in the weaving of extremely complicated brocaded textiles in lampas and double- and triple-cloth techniques with the addition of gold and silver threads. Superimposition of patterning at Coudurier-Fructus-Descher took the form of the combination of weaving techniques: satin stripes with patterned brocade or many-layered woven patterns that fully used the technical potential of the Jacquard loom [fig. 202].
Other patterns reflect the "exotic" inspiration associated with cubist art. Once again, Coudurier-Fructus-Descher's fabric names are revealing. A decided interest in exoticism is evident in "Crêpe Égyptienne," "Crêpe Rajah," "Moiré Saigonnaise," and "Crêpe Muscadin." By 1925, all the depth and breadth of Anna Tirocchi's contemporary taste are reflected in the sample books: modernist Japonist designs; chinoiseries; Kashmir patterns; huge geometric lamés; cubist patterns; exotic designs reflecting the art of Africa or Southeast Asia; and many small-, medium-, and large-scale "moderne" floral patterns.
Textiles manufactured by Bianchini, Férier; Coudurier-Fructus-Descher; and by Soieries F. Ducharne confirm another aspect of French design reflected in the textiles purchased by Anna Tirocchi for her American clients. At the same time that many modernist textiles were being woven in Lyon, other more traditional designs also were being produced by the very same firms. Small geometrics, realistic florals, Renaissance and Medieval motifs continued to be popular throughout the whole period of operation of the Tirocchi shop. They formed an important part of French textile production in 1925 - even at Bianchini, Férier, the leader in modernist design - at what has traditionally been considered to be the height of the "moderne"/Art Deco style.
It is often thought that the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes of 1925 popularized "moderne" design in America, but textiles in the Tirocchi shop belie this notion. Several modernist designs are documented in the pre-1920s inventory and others can be dated to well before 1925. The early modern design vocabulary had become known in this country first through posters, magazine illustrations, the decorative arts, and other media, and subsequently through painting and sculpture, which were largely seen for the first time at the Armory Show in New York in 1913. An examination of American textile samples from as early as 1910 by just one American manufacturer shows that modernism had already arrived in fabric produced for the mass market. In December 1910, at the very time that Paul Poiret and Charles Bianchini were adopting the "moderne" rose, the Arnold Printworks of North Adams, Massachusetts, was producing nearly seventy-five thousand yards of a roller print on scrim for curtains with the same flower [fig. 203]. Other stylized florals were also popular, perhaps based on Wiener Werkstätte textiles. That American printworks knew about avant-garde European textile design is certain. Many mills subscribed to pattern services. Claude Frères of Lyon supplied silk and woolen swatches on a monthly basis (many are preserved in the collection of the RISD Museum) to many manufacturers, including Arnold Printworks and the Empire Silk Company in Paterson, New Jersey. Publications such as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and the American Silk Journal also kept American manufacturers abreast of European design.
The skill with which Anna and Laura Tirocchi melded their taste with the already prevailing sense of the modern illustrates once again the reason for the survival of their business beyond the life of many other dressmaking establishments. Just as Anna Tirocchi took advantage of the changeover to ready-to-wear clothing by embracing it, she also adopted modernist French textiles as the basis for her custom trade, which she was able to continue well into the 1930s, although on a declining basis, until she was too old and too ill to sew. The last textiles in the Tirocchi shop date from the early 1940s. Silk and woolen samples, printed rayon textiles, zippers, and a few design folders advertising wartime production constitute a remarkable resource for this period, even as the Tirocchi shop closed and the objects in it were tucked away for posterity.