It’s a hundred years since the birth of textile and ceramic designer Tibor Reich, which is why Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery has created a show of his work. Born in Budapest into a family of Jewish textile manufacturers, Reich was encouraged to draw from a young age and in 1933 went to study in Vienna, where he was influenced by the modernism of the Bauhaus movement. The rise of Nazism led him to immigrate to Britain where he studied textile design at the University of Leeds. He was one of a number of Jewish refugees from Nazism whose knowledge of European modernism was to transform post-war British design. He died in 1996.
An early success came in 1947, when Reich’s design “Princess” was chosen by the Woolgrowers of the British Commonwealth to be presented as a wedding present to the future Queen and was then used to furnish Clarence House, where she lived before her accession to the throne. In 1951, Reich was involved in the refurbishment of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre near his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, designing a series of textiles for the building. One of these designs appeared in the first class cabins of the P&O liner Arcadia. Reich’s designs could also be found on the QE2 and Concorde and examples of these fabrics are on show. He was very innovative using photographic imagery in his designs but also in experimenting with new yarns. He even designed an early range of magic marker pens for use while sketching.
Curator Frances Pritchrad explains Reich’s importance to British design: “He brought colour into the home after the drab years of austerity and kept innovative British textile design for interiors in the forefront internationally.”
The Tibor Reich exhibition is at the Whitworth through August 29, 2016.