Explore the colourful archive of pioneering textile designer Althea McNish, whose delicate balance of painting, printmaking and fabrics broke down the barriers between fine art and manufactured textiles.
One of the UK’s most innovative textile designers, Althea McNish had a transformative impact on mid-century design in the 20th century and was the first designer of Caribbean decent to achieve international recognition. Her vibrant botanical textiles had a painterly quality, inspired by her background as a painter and printmaker.
Some of Althea McNish’s most famous works will be on display, including designs made for Liberty, Dior and Conran that demonstrate her astronomical success as a commercial designer. These will be accompanied by experimental fashion fabrics, lavish wallpapers, screen-print designs and a Trinidad carnival costume from 1969.
The exhibition will also include items from Althea’s personal archive, such as personal photographs of her student years in London, her university dissertation and early scrapbooks. Possibly her most famous pattern, Golden Harvest sits at the centre of the exhibition – taking inspiration from the sugarcane plantations of her childhood in Trinidad, the pattern is a reimagining of a wheat field designed for Hull Traders with what the artist describes as her ‘tropical eye’. There will be a strong focus in the exhibition on designs such as these that made Althea McNish a major player in the Caribbean Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s.
The exhibition is part of the BBC’s Art That Made Us Festival, a partnership between museums, libraries, archives and galleries coinciding with the broadcast of a major new series exploring Britain’s creative history, running from 1 – 30 April 2022