20th Century Rugs

20th Century Rugs
August 25, 2016 Caroline Seaworth

Rug designs in the period known as the Mid 20th century, or the 1940’s through the 1960’s, are widely accepted as modern designs. Although production of mid-20th century rugs was stylistically anything from very traditional to very modern, what stands out are the designs that speak directly to the movement in design that was ‘design for everyone’, for every home in suburbia. Keep in mind that suburban neighborhoods were developed in the late 1950’s.

Vintage swedish pile rug bb5499 6x4

Hooked rugs and rag rugs, both American and European, referenced the casual and rural communities while modern designs inspired by the Bauhaus movement and High rise Architecture spoke to both the suburban house wife and the urban dweller.

Many mid-20th century rugs were stylistically inspired by the trends of the times. Think 40’s fashion, 50’s rock and roll and the political landscape of the 60’s that saw a young Jacqueline Kennedy as a style authority while Audrey Hepburn’s collaboration with Givenchy represented minimal elegance.

Wall to wall carpeting was very popular during this time but hand made rugs became the icons of the period representing a home spun ideology or exotic textile art.

Tibet produced some distinctive designs in textiles before and early in this period. These were usually repeated geometric patterns that would sit easily beside, and probably inspired, many western designs of the time. Rug design has always been of its time, reflecting the social preference in colour and motif which was common in any one period. The Victorian era was known for its heavy, ornate design but rushing in at the end of that period came a revolutionary army of artists rebelling against the complicated, natural details seen in all the homes of the time. These rebels worked at the opposite end of the design spectrum with simple, open airy designs and great sweeps or slabs of colour and then later came the hard lines of Cubism. Yet it was only a few decades after the beginning of this turn around in art and design when the scales found their balance. Natural motifs and organic abstraction crept back in alongside pop art and minimalism to render mid-20th century rugs into a new art form that would be enjoyed into the 21st and possibly beyond.

Many of these artists were not designing rugs as floor coverings but thought of them as an overall interior design style; they went with the paintings on the wall and the Bauhaus inspired furniture. Just as the original rug makers, once they had got to grips with the practicalities of tying, weaving and plaiting the textiles they had at their disposal, so they would be making patterns and including motifs that they absorbed from their surroundings and from whatever the society they lived in held as important. Whether they were prudish like the Victorians, who covered even the legs of their furniture; or in awe of nature like the ancient Greeks, their rugs reflected their time. Today it seems we have no community arts that reflect a local art style; only a cornucopia of styles to choose from but it is just that eclectic appreciation of all arts that mirrors the interconnection of our global society, as did the mid-20th century rugs that reflect the artistic upheaval of theirs.

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