Today’s post is courtesy of a reader named Kari. She recently purchased the scarf below. It’s called “Manhattan Medley”, and was printed by Wesley Simpson and designed by an artist named Cobelle. Intrigued by the label, she decided to investigate the origins and came across my blog.
(New to my site? You should check out my previous posts on Wesley Simpson)
Wesley Simpson (1903-1975) was an American textile manufacturer who was responsible for bringing many artist-designed textiles to the market after World War II. During the Great Depression, Simpson established his own business as a textile converter. This means that designs were produced in-house or via freelance artists, and then the actual printing was contracted to outside factories. Simpson was the chief stylist of his company, which came to be known as Wesley Simpson Custom Fabrics, Inc. The company operated from 1932 to 1950.
In the year’s directly following the war, the art market boomed as communication and trade between the U.S and Europe was restored. The economy improved, and the rationing of basic commodities ceased. Consumers wanted new, colorful additions to their wardrobes. Simpson offered moderately priced fabrics and scarves designed by many European artists of fill the demands for European flair and artistry in the fashion market.
Kari’s scarf features small sketches of neighborhoods and iconic scenes typical of Manhattan: the Statue of Liberty, strangers locking eyes in the street, buses, parades, the architecture of the city itself. In the lower right corner, the scarf is signed “Cobelle”.
This is the signature of the French artist Charles Cobelle (1902-1994). Cobelle was a painter and lithographer, who studied with Marc Chagall and apprenticed in the studio of Raul Dufy. He lived and worked in Paris until the 1920s, and made his way to America before World War II. He is best known for his depictions of cityscapes.
What I find so sweet Cobelle’s work are how the loose lines, the punctuating dots and dashes, and small scribbles unfold into a recognizable scene. The use of color is also brightly hued and runs outside of the lines, giving the viewer an impression how the scene changes over time.
After the war, Cobelle realized significant commercial success with his Parisian-infused style. He also illustrated for fashion magazines, created pottery patterns for kitchenware, and was commissioned for murals throughout the U.S.
Kari’s scarf is a great example of Cobelle’s work and Wesley Simpson’s knack for collaboration. Many thanks to Kari for sharing her beautiful images of her scarf for today’s post.
For more information, please read this exhibition review on Charles Cobelle.