Barbara Brown, Heal’s “golden girl”, is celebrated at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester

I have wanted to go to the Whitworth art gallery for years and finally made it! The gallery space couldn’t be better to showcase the first solo exhibition of the work of Barbara Brown, who designed printed textiles for Heal’s for nearly two decades in the 60’s and 70’s.

Barbara Brown studied at the Canterbury College of Art and then at the Royal College of Art in London. Tom Worthington, Heal’s fabric Director spotted her at her degree show and she went on to produce her first commercial fabric for them entitled “Sweetcorn” in 1958.

Sweetcorn (1958)

Printed textiles in the 1960’s for furnishings evolved thanks to Modern architecture, painting and sculpture. Huge and bold patterns emerged and Barbara Brown was the champion of that new aesthetic. In the early part of that decade two artists were to influence the world of textile design amongst others with the Op art movement- Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely- with the graphic and geometric abstraction that caught the eye.

The wall of black and white graphic hung textiles at the Whitworth really represent the power of her work.

Ikebana (1970), Precision (1970), Gyration (1970), Automaton (1970), Construction (1966), Alpha (1966)

Barbara Brown won awards from the Council of Industrial design with fabrics such as “Spiral” and “Automaton” but my favourite fabric at this exhibition, which I had never seen before is “Decor” produced in 1967. The wave like pattern was inspired by geology but I simply love the colour combination.

Decor (1967), screen-printed mercurised cotton

Don’t you think these fabrics don’t seem to have aged and would still fit in our interiors in a small dose?

The Barbara Brown exhibition is on till January 2018 at the Whitworth Art Gallery.


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