An exhibition inspired by the designs of the short-lived Omega Workshops design company was unveiled at the Somerset House on 3 May. After Bloomsbury: Rugs from the Omega Workshops, 1913-1916 features five rugs created by the London and LA-based rug design company Christopher Farr.
Omega Workshops was founded in London in 1913 by the artist and art critic Roger Fry but closed a short six years later. The company was closely associated with the literary and artistic movement Bloomsbury Group and included many avant-garde artists of the day, most notably Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, Fry's friends from the group.
Inspired by fauvism and cubism as well as African art, Omega Workshops created a variety of objects for home interiors ranging from rugs and linens to ceramics and furniture, all featuring bold colours and patterns.
The Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House owns the largest collection of Omega Workshops drawings and designs, donated by Fry's daughter Pamela Diamond in 1958. As the company was run on the basis of anonymity and the artists stamped, printed or painted their work with the symbol O instead of their name, none of the drawings in The Courtauld's collection is signed. Some can however be attributed to either Bell or Grant based on their style. Majority of the 100 drawings in the collection were created for using as the basis for rugs, but only a handful were ever made. As a rare survivor, the Lady Hamilton Rug, is held in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
An inspiration to create the new rugs came after Christopher Farr's business partner Matthew Bourne was consulted in 2009 for the Beyond Bloomsbury: Designs of the Omega Workshops 1913 - 1919 exhibition. Farr and Bourne selected five of the most vibrant and challenging designs and translated these into working drawings for rug makers in Konya in central Turkey, a region known for its long tradition of hand-weaving. But as some of the original drawings have faded with time and others are incomplete, Farr and Bourne had to establish a colour scheme for the textiles after carefully examining the original Omega palette and consulting with conservators. The new rugs are displayed next to replicas of the designs, as the original drawings are too fragile for exhibiting.
After Bloomsbury: Rugs from the Omega Workshops, 1913-1916 is open until 24 June at the Great Arch Hall in the south wing of Somerset House.