Fashion and art are undeniably intertwined. Collaborations between artists and designers always fascinate me. My previous posts on Sonia Delaunay, Salvador Dali, and color field paintings explore this. But what really captivates me is an individual who can participate in both spheres on their own. Abstract expressionist artist John Little did exactly this.
John Little Untitled #1, 1948. Image courtesy of thomasmccormick.com/
John Little (1907-1984) was a student of Hans Hofmann and painted with Jackson Pollock in post-war New York. Lisa N. Peters of Spanierman Modern describes his work quite succinctly:
His canvases are characterized by dynamic and explosive movements, conveying the searching, restlessness of his era, yet he also brought them a sense of resolution and balance. For Little, the picture plane was akin to a magnetic field, and he contained opposing forces, of buoyancy and gravity, of varying densities of form and color, of splintering and fusion, and of pressure and release through a process of animated involvement that is evident in his charged surfaces.
John Little Cascading Forms, 1954. Image courtesy of thomasmccormick.com
Looking through Little’s paintings, I felt the sense of floating through color. Some invoked a sense of restlessness, and others, like Cascading Forms, seemed soothing. The different emotional responses made me want to read more of what Peters had written on Little. She explained in the catalog that Little had designed textiles in the late 1920s. This caught my attention.
John Little, Diver, 1983. Image courtesy of janeeckertfineart.com
In 1928, the John Little Studios: Fabric & Wallpaper Design was opened in New York. This studio grew to a staff of 12, and remained open through the early 1950s. Textile design allowed Little to survive the Great Depression. He was able to operate the business and paint in his spare time.
John Little (1907-1984) “Ominous Night,” 1951. Image courtesy of Spanierman Modern.
Dressing is such an emotional process. Designers want to help clients feel a certain way in clothing. During the time that Little operated the textile studio, many women made their own dresses. Thus, Little had to be aware of how women wanted to present themselves. His time designing textiles must have made him sensitive to the psychological component of fashion. This also appears in Little’s paintings.
Now if only I could find examples of his textile designs! The search begins . . .