The history of the art of textile ornamentation goes back into the distant past. Millennia ago, fabrics were dyed in China, India and Egypt. Twelve centuries before the birth of Christ, purple textiles from Tyre and Sidon were valued almost as highly as gold. Unlike solid dyeing, the creation of patterned design involved a more complex process. Along with embroidery and woven pattern, textiles were ornamented with dyeing technique that evolved over centuries, such as painting, batik, bandana, and print. It is hard to accurately determine the time when patterned textiles appeared, although we know of early prints from ancient Greece, now kept in the Hermitage (1, p. 33).
For centuries, Uzbekistan has been producing cotton and silk fabrics. The known cottons are alocha, kalami, susi and chit; semi-silks, such as bekasab, adras, bakhmal, and banoras; as well as shoyi and khan-atlas silks, which were uniformly colored or ornamented with stripes of different width, check design, or printed and abr patterns in rich colour palette. Among traditional ways of textile ornamentation, handmade print was quite popular. Chitgari prints were made in many textile centres of Uzbekistan producing both piece items, and metreage fabrics. Vegetable designs were combined with geometric patterns, either in two (red and black), or many colours.
Changing socio-economic relations influenced the way fabrics were fashioned, too. Gradually, factory-made prints crowded out artisan products. In the second half of the XIX century, fine-lined ornaments were replaced by cruder patterns, as they did not require good quality dyes. Many of the old patterns almost disappeared, for instance, patterns used for overcoats. They were substituted by factory-made textiles that catered to the tastes of local population. In manufacturing these textiles, print motifs were skilfully employed. Oriental textiles always inspired European manufacturers, and Bukhara designs provided models for the Ivanovo-Voznesensk weavers. Looking towards Eastern markets, Russian calico printers also developed different oriental designs, which might have nothing to do with the Orient, as they sometimes went back to French or Italian specimens. This, however, did not obstruct their popularity among consumers. In the early twentieth century, the imports of Russian factory-made textiles plummeted, while the manufacturing of local cottage industry fabrics and printed cloth increased. Now the carvers of kolyb – stamps for making prints on fabric – started using the ornaments of the factory-made textiles.
Further change in political order resulted in many transformations, which also affected the art of making textiles. After 1917, textile design began to serve the needs of the propaganda. Ideological, rather than economic approach to the textile design often contributed to supplanting traditional fashion trends with the principles of socialist culture, which was not too enthusing for the consumer. While formerly the market was studied and the local people’s demand for textile products was taken into account, by early 1930s the textile market could no longer boast any notable achievements in textile ornamentation, as demonstrated by textile exhibition in January 1929 (2, p.69). Creating a textile design is not a simple process, as it involves not only making a drawing by the artist, but also selling the final product to the market. This necessitated radical transformation of the textile industry.
To this end, in 1934, the first largest textile mill, after the 1917 revolution, was built in Tashkent. The product range and textile designs of the Tashkent Textile Factory were quite diverse, and soon the mill’s products were distributed all over the Soviet Union. Particularly notable are decorative satins the mill produced; their specimens are displayed in the collection of State Fine Arts Museum of Uzbekistan.
Designs for the textiles were created by the Uzbek masters of applied arts, as well as artist from Moscow, Ivanovo, and Serpukhovo. For the new designs, the artists turned to traditional ornamental techniques used in cottage industry, and to the rich heritage of the Uzbek arts and crafts. Designer artists of the Tashkent Textile Factory A. G. Golubev and E. P. Povstyaniy, together with colourist N. A. Malyshev, also used motifs and ornaments of the museum exhibits in their work. Style-wise, the design of printed satins can be divided into several groups: suzane embroidery motifs; the elements of ceiling painting, ganch; wood painting elements; and elements of other handicraft arts as background, with added cotton boll designs as a symbol of new staple crop. Colouring and composition of ornamental elements were determined by the artist’s imagination.
Let us now look at selected specimens of printed satin manufactured in 1937-1938, from the collection of State Fine Arts Museum of Uzbekistan.
Over thick and glossy deep-blue fabric run four narrow vertical stripes that alternate with three wide ones. The narrow stripes form a winding shoot with repeated profiled five-petal flower with a leaf. The wide stripes are ornamented with alternating multicoloured round rosettes and large profiled stylized flowers. The rosette, enclosed in a delicate scalloped frame, consists of a vinous, orange and red core framed by small red, vinous and green flowers on stalks. The profiled flower consists of a row of multicoloured festoons, stemming from the base. On the edge, the flower is crowned with light-brown, orange and lilac petals. The field between the flower and the rosette is filled with leaves and paired little twigs thickly peppered with tiny flowers. Fine outline lends graphic quality to the design. Outlining of the main pattern can also be found in the Uzbek embroidery, wood painting, and ceramics. When creating the textile design, artist Povstyaniy rendered a pattern from a suzane border (Fig. 1). The fabric looks very festive. Other specimens have the same pattern, but different colour solution that makes it look completely different (Fig. 2).
Other specimens are compositionally similar, featuring alternating wide and narrow ornamented stripes. Large profiled flowers and rosettes represent a rendition of embroidery motifs (Fig. 3, 4).
Very original are the embroidery motifs arranged in a grid or positioned randomly in the field. Change in colouring increased the variety of the design (Fig. 5, 6).
Quite interesting is a specimen created by A. G. Golubev that syntheses Shahrisabz embroidery motifs and ceiling painting ornaments, where two types of rosettes alternate diagonally: a large one with a core featuring six red and white cotton bolls and twelve orange rays on a light blue polygon, arranged in a circle. The rosette is surrounded by twenty-four medallions in light-purple frames with stylized cotton bolls against light-blue background and a vinous leaf on a light-red background. The second rosette consists of a red core framed by white, vinous and bright-green petals, enclosed in a bright-blue octagon with light-purple rim; the rosette is surrounded by eight light-green medallions containing stylized vinous and orange cotton flowers on a red stalk. At the junction of large and small rosettes there are pale-green medallions with red and green motifs, arranged diagonally (Fig. 7).
An example of using wood painting ornaments can be found in a textile specimen, where vinous background hosts alternating vertical stripes of white interwoven twigs and half-flowers with leaves, framed by orange stalks (Fig. 8).
In the other textile specimen the background is an “openwork” rosette the artist borrowed from wood-painting and wood-carving (Fig. 9). Over the rosette he positioned two bunches of purple grapes with large pale-green leaves; between the bunches there is a stem bearing two open cotton bolls with deep-green leaves. The ornamental rosette is very harmoniously combined with deep-vinous, red, purple, black, and orange flowers, although the grapes and cotton bolls stand out a bit from the overall colour palette.
The overviewed specimens of satins produced by the Tashkent Textile Factory in the late 1930s indicate that Uzbek artists, employing ornamental elements of ganch plaster-carving, wood-painting, embroidery, and printed cloth, and combining some of these elements could create new original designs for Uzbek satins, which differ significantly from the products of other textile mills of that time. Even today, these textile specimens from the StateFineArtsMuseum collection amaze the visitors by their timeless relevance.
- Соболев Н. Н. Очерки по истории украшения тканей. Москва – Ленинград, 1934.
- Федоров-Давыдов А. А. Искусство текстиля. Изофронт. Классовая борьба на фронте пространственных искусств. Сб. статей объединения «Октябрь». Москва – Ленинград, 1931.
- Рогинская С. Советский текстиль. М., 1930.
- Великая Утопия. Русский и советский авангард 1915 – 1932. М., 1993.