Textiles designer (1903–1986)
The multi-talented Czech thrived in the European arts scene before and after the war, creating a wealth of textile patterns that won great acclaim
Enterprising and astute, Jacqueline Groag was one of the most influential post-war designers in Europe. If her name is unfamiliar, her work, particulalry her textiles, is not; her output was prodigious and she had a reputation as a fearsome talent. That her work feels familiar is no surprise; it has undeniable similarities with that of fellow artist-designers such as Lucienne Day. She and Day were working at the same time, often for the same clients, and they clearly shared certain influences.
Born Hilde Pick in Prague in 1903 (she changed her name when she met her husband, a fellow Czech named Jacques Groag, at a Viennese masked ball in the 1930s), she grew up in an affluent Jewish family. Her childhood was marred by ill-health and, as a result, she was largely home-schooled. She was also quite a solitary child who spent time alone drawing. Later in life, she said she had a theory that everyone has a particular age that they remain at inside, regardless of their real age; hers, she maintained, was eight. It gave her gave her a unique style that, while naïve and simple, was anything but childish.
Groag studied in Vienna in the 1920s, focusing on textiles and pattern design. She worked under Josef Hoffmann, who, along with teacher Franz Cizek, became influential figures in her artistic journey. It was Cizek who suggested she concentrate on surface design and who encouraged his students to set aside the formal teaching they’d had in favour of a less-structured approach.
Groag began making designs for the Wiener Werkstatte collective of artist-designers, who came together with the aim of creating strong, credible design across the artistic disciplines. Working at a difficult but exciting time, she sold designs to the Werkstatte while still a student, as well as winning prizes for her work, including one design for a poster to promote the Salzburg Festival. These were prestigious accolades and distinguished her from her classmates and contemporaries. Like Hoffman, she did not agree with the values of the International Modernist movement, which eschewed decoration as frivolous and unnecessary. Her work, which often used a grid, where squares were filled with drawings, figures and motifs, might have been dismissed by some as ‘decorative arts’ but she was unperturbed.
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning images on pages 187-189, issue 110.
Words Catherine Coyle