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The Patterned World

Colour

Tapestry Zoomify

Bright colours appear everywhere, from computer and TV screen pixels to painted signage and dyed clothing. But prior to the invention of synthetic dyes in the 19th century, fabricated colour was difficult to attain. An artist, craftsperson or maker had the often onerous task of grinding minerals, or harvesting and boiling plants, to obtain the precious colours they wished to impart to their paintings or textiles.

About the Object

Object name: Tapestry, Le gladiateur et la mer (The Gladiator and the Sea)
Maker: Jean Lurçat
Place made: St. Céré, France
Date made: 1930-1940
Dimensions: 202 x 153 cm
Materials & Techniques: Wool and linen, tapestry-woven
Credit line: Gift of Arnold and Betty Issenman
ID: T2008.2.1

Jean Lurçat was a 20th century surrealist painter. He also designed tapestries and directed the Aubusson tapestry workshop in Aubusson, France. This tapestry, created for a fishmonger conference in London, shows a murmillo gladiator next to a stylized representation of the sea. In ancient Rome, murmillo gladiators wore a fish-shaped helmet.

Alternative Views

Back

Back

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Second Look

Macro

Macro

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Touchpoint View

Animation

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Image

Colour Mixing in Textile Art

Colours in woven textiles are mixed in a fundamentally different way than in any other medium. With tapestries, individual strands of coloured threads are twisted or plied together before they are woven. To change gradually from blue to green to yellow, the weaver might start with four blue strands and replace one blue strand with a yellow strand – weave with it – and then replace another blue strand, and so on until the colour changes. Colours can also be mixed in this way to move gradually from dark to light, or from warm to cool. Texture effects can be achieved by plying different colours together, as is the case in the detail shown here.

Reverse Side of the Tapestry

Colour Mixing in Textile Art

Image title: Reverse Side of the Tapestry

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Image

Jean Lurçat at Aubusson

Painter Jean Lurçat revived the dying art of tapestry as it was once practiced in the centuries-old workshops of Aubusson, France. He introduced contemporary designs and composed directly on the full-scale cartoon to lessen the number of steps from conception to completion. Lurçat also simplified the weaving process by increasing the thickness of the wools and by limiting the number of colours used. The success of Lurçat’s tapestries inspired artists such as Joan Miró and Fernand Léger, as well as modernist architect Le Corbusier, to take an interest in the possibilities of tapestry as an art form.

Jean Lurçat

Jean Lurçat at Aubusson

Image title: Jean Lurçat
Credit: Image Courtesy of Getty Images

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Audio Clip

Kids’ Response

Listen to TMC 8-year old visitors, Breanna and Kaelan, talk about The Gladiator and the Sea tapestry

Credit: Audio Produced by TMC

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Transcript

K: It looks like he’s glowing green.
B: Yah.
K: And then sparks are falling from the sky because he’s there.
B: The fish seem to be, like, two of them seem to be running away.
K: Yeah.
B: Like, but not from him, but one of them seems to be going up.
K: And it looks like he’s carrying an ivory or shark tooth dagger--
B: Yeah.
K: that ends in his hand.
B: And he’s smiling suspiciously and his, umm, I, his--
K: He’s like, he’s like…a, a dagger, like this, and then he’s like, ‘ahh’--
B: Yeah, he’s kind of smiling as if he’s sort of suspicious.
K: Yeah. Or if he’s a guy trying to catch stars for dinner. So maybe he’s a warrior, but, uh, he got touched by that star up there that seems to be glowing and it… I think it looks like an evil star.
B: It looks like, when I see it, it looks almost like it’s laughing in an evil way.
K: To me, it looks like it’s glowing even though it’s only on, on, a rug.

Collection Connections

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Tapestry

Tapestry

ID*: T96.0194

Rug

Rug

ID*: T81.0019

Headband

Headband

ID*: T82.0104