Monday, 25 October 2010

Textile Desgns by Alois Bohla

Illustration: Alois Bohla. Tablecloth design, 1905.

Little information seems to be known or is available, concerning the German designer Alois Bohla. That he produced a number of textile designs that were put into production is known. He also produced a range of instructional drawings based on Art Nouveau floral motifs. These are now somewhat rare and not readily available online. However, a web link is given in the Reference links section below, where some of the colour work produced by Bohla can be both seen and purchased.

The four textile patterns shown in this article were meant to be produced as tablecloth designs. The first two were published in 1905, while the latter two are slightly later and were published in 1911. All four designs were purchased by the Austrian textile manufacturers Norbert Langer und Sohne for eventual release as tablecloth covers. Interestingly, the first two from 1905 were part of a competition organised by Norbert Langer und Sohne, the winners of which were published in the German magazine Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration.

Illustration: Alois Bohla. Tablecloth design, 1905.

What is interesting about the pattern work produced by Bohla in these examples from the beginning of the twentieth century is how exacting and minimal they appear, yet still manage to entail large amounts of diverse and interesting pattern work. He did this by introducing a large and rigid geometrical format that covered the fabric. Inside this he introduced a whole range of smaller details, admittedly still using the geometrical standard, but by cleverly using ranges of style, motif and most importantly scale, he was able to keep an observational interest going on what could easily have become a monotonous grid-like pattern.

Fabric tablecloths are an interesting format in their own right, if only for their design element. Usually most are made in a square, rectangular, circular or oval format, obviously depending on the table shape. Within this larger format is usually set another smaller shape, often taking the form of a defined pattern or blocked area. This is a practical necessity as tablecloths tend to cover both the table and drape over the sides. This gives ample room for a textile designer to be able to split up the style and format of the pattern work. This can be seen in particular in Bohla's last three examples where a large border area is set out and can easily be seen to be separate from the central panel. 

Illustration: Alois Bohla. Tablecloth design, 1911.

Although by no means a three-dimensional product, the table cloth is unusual in that it does have to be seen and interpreted from different angles and perspectives. This makes Bohla's design work all the more interesting as the pattern that would hang off of the table would appear to be of a different one than that on actual table top itself. Connecting the two together so that the textile piece appeared to be one product rather than two separate pattern designs fighting for dominance, can sometimes be problematic. This is partially why so many tablecloths were and still are produced as plain fronted with just a border around the sides.

However, Bohla's work is an excellent example of balance, good judgement and practical necessity. He has taken a good stance as far as the combination of strict geometric and detailed pattern work is concerned and was able to draw in elements from Art Nouveau, the traditions of pattern work in Central Europe, particularly that of embroidery and lace as can be seen in the third example, and to a certain extent the last, and also that of contemporary ideas concerning the rationalisation of pattern work. That Bohla's decorative work has certain similarities with those of other contemporary designers producing design and decoration across Central Europe does not imply that his work is derivative of others. What it does say is that ideas concerning decorative pattern work in Germany in particular, were changing rapidly and these design pieces give some indication of the format those changes were to take in the years ahead.

Illustration: Alois Bohla. Tablecloth design, 1911.

Reference links:
Art Nouveau design work of Alois Bohla
Decorative Arts 1900s & 1910s (Varia)
Modern Style: Jugendstil/Art Nouveau 1899-1905
Jugendstil & Werkkunst
Jugendstil in Dresden
Art Nouveau: Utopia: Reconciling the Irreconcilable (Taschen's 25th Anniversary Special Editions Series)
Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau (World of Art)
Art Nouveau 1890-1914
Art Nouveau (DK Collector's Guides)
The Essence of Art Nouveau
Floral Patterns: 120 Full Color Designs in the Art Nouveau Style (Dover Pictorial Archive Series)

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