Modern Design Classics, No. 4 Omega Workshops: Bloomsbury Group 1913-1919

08
MAR2017

Tagged: All Articles / Design Inspiration / Interior Design Projects

Modern Design Classics, No. 4  Omega Workshops: Bloomsbury Group 1913-1919
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Modern Design Classics, No. 4

Omega Workshops: Bloomsbury Group 1913-1919

In 1913 artist and influential art critic Roger Fry brought together a collective of some of the most cutting edge artists of the day, who designed and made products under the anonymous banner of the Omega Workshop. Artists included Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and others of the Bloomsbury Group; Wyndham Lewis, Frederick Etchells, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Winifred Gill. No artist was allowed to sign their work, and everything produced by the Workshops bore only the Greek letter Ω (Omega).

The Omega Workshops brought radical and avant-garde art and design to domestic interiors in Edwardian Britain, creating a range of objects for the home; rugs and linens to ceramics, furniture and clothing were all boldly coloured with dynamic abstract patterns. Fry wanted to inject some fun into furniture and fabrics, to get away from the dull seriousness of Edwardian interior design. Omega blurred the line between fine art and furnishing, producing both functional and highly decorative pieces.Young artists designed bright chintzes alongside painted tables and chairs. Ceramics and fabrics used the same outline patterns or shapes, but were produced in a number of different colour-ways or glazes.

For a while the Omega Workshops were the only place in London to shop for a ‘Fauve’ shawl, a ‘Post-Impressionist’ chair or a Cubist-inspired rug. Clients included Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, W.B. Yeats and E.M. Forster, as well as bohemian high society figures like Lady Ottoline Morrell.

The Workshop managed to stay open during the First World War but failed to make a profit, eventually closing in 1919. Although it operated for just six years, it saw the creation of an impressive sequence of thrillingly bold designs which were well ahead of their time. Some of these designs have been reproduced or reimagined, including the Christopher Farr Omega rugs as shown below.

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Stained glass roundel by Roger Fry for Omega Workshops

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The Omega Workshops transformed English interior design

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Semi abstract paintings on furniture were revolutionary at the time

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Rug collaboration by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant

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Semi abstract patterns on textiles

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The Garden Room at Charleston, decorated by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant

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Garden Room showing curtains designed by Duncan Grant and cushion cover by Vanessa Bell

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Gramophone cabinet (Angelica Garnet), portrait of Vanessa Bell by Duncan Grant, mug by Vanessa Bell

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"Bathers screen" - Vanessa Bell

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Duncan Grant's studio/sitting room

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Omega furniture - Roger Fry