American textile designer Marion Dorn (1896–1964) is best known for creating wall hangings, carpeting, and rugs, but she is also known to have created wallpaper, graphics, and illustrations. She made significant contributions to modern British interior design, especially with her “sculpted” carpets, and she worked on some of the most well-known interiors of the day, including those at the Savoy Hotel, Claridges, the Orion, and the Queen Mary. She produced moquette fabric designs for use in London Transport passenger vehicles in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
She attended Stanford University from 1912 to 1916, where she received a bachelor of arts in graphic arts. She relocated to San Francisco, where she and her former art teacher, Henry Varnum Poor, shared a studio in Russian Hill. From July 1919 to October 1923, they were married. 1919 saw the relocation of Poor and Dorn to New York City, where Dorn rose to prominence as a batik designer. She first met the poster artist, Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890–1954), in Paris in 1923, and from late 1923 to July 1940, they lived together in London. After getting married in 1950, they remained in New York until his passing in 1954.
Dorn’s career took off in the early 1920s after she relocated to London; at the time, she was printing on silk, linen, and velvet in addition to making batik textiles. In May 1925, Vogue magazine featured five of her batiks, giving her exposure and showcasing her creativity.
By 1925, many London speciality shops carried her textiles, and because her creations were regarded as “modern textiles,” they were also displayed in London galleries and museums.
She established Marion Dorn LTD. in 1934 and began receiving commissions from significant clients, including the opulent hotels The Berkeley of London and The London Savoy.
In 1936, the London Passenger Transport Board hired Dorn to create moquette fabrics for use in automobiles. Four designs resulted as a result of this: “Chesham” in 1936; “Colindale” and “Canonbury” in 1937; and “Caledonian” in 1942. Up until the 1960s, the designs were still in use on the London Underground.
Influence in America
In contrast to the European market, which embraced avant-garde trends in art, Dorn toned down her modernist flair for the more conservative American market, but there were opportunities to explore other spheres of influence. The Good Neighbor policy, a foreign policy aimed at fostering good relations between the United States and Latin America, oversaw a deliberate pivot to the art, design, and culture of Latin America during the war, when Americans were essentially cut off from European fashion and design.
She retired to Tangier, Morocco, in 1962, where she died on January 28, 1964.
From 1927 to 1939 Dorn’s work was exhibited in many influential European exhibitions as well as exports and exhibitions in the United States including the following:
- Arthur Tooth Gallery, London (1929), Exhibition of Rugs by Marion Dorn and Edward McKnight Kauffer
- Dorland Hall, London (1933 and 1934),
- Burlington House, London (1935), Exhibition of British Art in Industry
- The Universal Exhibition (World’s Fair), Paris (1937)
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1937),Rugs and Carpets: An International Exhibition
- Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE), San Francisco (1939), maintained exposure in the United States for her work in her absence.
Sample of Works
Anscombe, I. (1985). A woman’s touch: Women in design from 1860 to the present day. Penguin Books. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://archive.org/details/womanstouchwomen0000ansc/page/146/mode/2up?q=%22marion+Dorn%22.
Bury, H. (1981). A choice of design: 1850-1980 ; fabrics by Warner and Sons Limited. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/choiceofdesign180000bury/page/58/mode/2up?q=%22marion+Dorn%22.
Day, S., & Mikaeloff, Y. (2015). Carpets of the art deco era. Thames et Hudson. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://amzn.to/3dSjM0u.
Marion Dorn, Back in the USA | Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum#. (2022, March 18). Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.cooperhewitt.org/2022/03/17/marion-dorn-back-in-the-usa/
Marion Dorn – Wikipedia. (2014, October 21). Marion Dorn – Wikipedia. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marion_Dorn
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