Robert Stewart designs for Liberty

One of my favourite fabric designers of the 1950s is the Scot, Robert Stewart (1924-1995). Born in Glasgow, Stewart studied at Glasgow School of Art and taught there from 1949, becoming the Head of Printed Textiles. Stewart had a distinguished career as a designer of ceramics, tapestries, fabrics and graphics. [1] And I have one of his textiles ‘Fruit Cup’ (1951) for sale at the moment in my Etsy shop.

Robert Stewart’s designs often incorporate stylised human forms and abstracted fruit and vegetables. His designs were manufactured by some of the best known textiles companies of the period: Donald Brothers, Edinburgh Weavers, the Edinburgh Tapestry Company and possibly David Whitehead. His relationship with Liberty of London was particularly fruitful.

He visited Liberty in 1950 taking a portfolio of designs which were felt to be too abstract for the retailer who at the time were best known for more traditional products. But later when Liberty had realised the possibilities of embracing more modern approaches to design they approached him to design souvenir products for the Festival of Britain, 1951.

During the ’50s he produced many designs for Liberty and his work was displayed prominently in its mail order catalogues. He played an important role in Liberty’s strategy of modernising its output. Stewart was in good company for Liberty also bought fabric designs from Lucienne Day, Jacqueline Groag and Hilda Durkin. Modern designs were first introduced through the ‘Young Liberty’ department (founded in July 1949) – before being sold through the  main fabric ranges.

Stewart supplied Liberty with at least fifteen designs between 1950 and 1954 , these included fabrics, cushions, boxes and waste paper baskets. [2]

In 1992 Liberty reprinted his 1951 design ‘Fruit Delight’. The enduring popularity of Stewart’s work is evidenced in the continued availability of his designs, a number of  which have been digitally reproduced by Classic Textiles.

Classic Textiles

References

[1] Arthur, Liz (2003) Robert Stewart Design 1946-95, A&C Black, London

[2] Arthur, ibid

Further Reading

Arthur, Liz (2003) Robert Stewart Design 1946-95, A&C Black, London

Buruma, A (2009) Liberty and Co. in the Fifties and Sixties, ACC Editions, Woodbridge, Suffolk

Classic Textiles https://www.classictextiles.com/robert-stewart/

V&A Pattern (2012) Liberty & Co. V&A Publishing, London

Victoria & Albert Museum http://collections.vam.ac.uk/search/?limit=15&q=Robert+Stewart&commit=Search&after-adbc=AD&before-adbc=AD&collection%5B%5D=THES48601&narrow=1&offset=0&slug=0

 

 

 

 

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