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Monday 24 January 2022

Unknown Tapestry Design Discovered & Realised For Major New Exhibition In Sussex

A rare and previously unseen tapestry found by chance has been made into a new large scale textile work for a major exhibition opening this season at Towner Eastbourne, in East Sussex. 
Credit E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection / Curatorial Inc

To coincide with the first ever UK solo exhibition of multi-skilled painter, printmaker, illustrator and tapestry designer Eileen Mayo DBE (1906-1994) a tapestry cartoon by the artist which was found by chance by her great niece will be the centrepiece of the exhibition. 

The drawing was found via an internet search by Mayo's great niece, Dr Lucie Stanford, who is based in Australia and then purchased at auction. 

The work has been realised in collaboration with The Tapestry Studio at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, one of the only professional studios in the UK and is the only tapestry by Mayo to be created posthumously. 

Lucie was keen to commission the tapestry from the cartoon she had purchased, when she was in touch with John Gainsborough, Mayo's stepson, about the exhibition at Towner. 

She was inspired to work with West Dean through their reputation and collaborations with artists such as Tracey Emin.

The design found was for a work named Duck Pond (c 1948-49), and when realised the work will span almost the size of a double bed quilt. 

Viewing the work at Towner will be the only chance to see the piece in the UK before the work travels to be part of a private collection in Australia after the exhibition closes. 

The work, of blue and green hues and depicts an aerial view of a pond on which three ducks are swimming, surrounded by the aquatic flora, fauna and wildlife.

Lucie explains: 

"I bought the cartoon via a phone bid at an auction in 2011. I was in Australia, the auction house was based in New Zealand, yet the cartoon was located in the USA. 

"There was a second Eileen Mayo cartoon in the same auction  which was of a rock pool scene and Duck Pond was 'the one'." 

The cartoons were a surprise find, as they weren't listed in the PhD Thesis on Eileen by Jillian Cassidy which catalogued all of her known works. 

Talking about the commission, Philip Sanderson, of West Dean (Studio Leader) said: 

"This is the first time we have worked with the Towner Eastbourne and the first time we have worked on an Eileen Mayo design. 

"All tapestries come with their own language, but unlike other works that we have translated, this project differs in that we are unable to have a dialogue with the artist on how the final work should look. 

"However, the design by Mayo, who trained as a tapestry designer and cartoon maker under Jean Lurçat does show in great detail how the tapestry should be made. 

"In addition to this we have liaised with Dr Lucie Stanford who has the original cartoon to establish the best size for the tapestry (172cm x 132cm) and the relatively small palette of 14 colours."

The exhibition takes place from 12th February to 3rd July 2022. CLICK HERE for more information.

by: Mike Cobley




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