Monday, December 19, 2011

Alexander Girard

As my thoughts turn to decorating for the Holidays, I find that I am truly obsessed with this Alexander Girard nativity set. I love the colors and patterns that he used and it evokes just the right amount of whimsy. The same could be said of the nativity images he created below.

Alexander Girard, Brochure for "The Nativity," Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, 1961.

Alexander Girard, Poster for "The Nativity," Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, 1962.

Girard, alongside Charles and Ray Eames, and George Nelson, was one of post-war America's masters of modern design. He was also one of the most prolific mid-century American designers. His work spanned many disciplines including textile design, graphic design, typography, illustration, furniture design, interior design, product design, and architecture. 

Girard was born in New York City in 1907 but was raised in Florence, Italy. He graduated from the Royal School of Architecture in Rome and returned to the United States in 1932 to practice architecture and interior design.  His designs defined a new kind of "opulent Modernism" infused with a sense of frivolity and joy - a look that came to define the style of 1960s America.

Alexander Girard in 1951 in front of his mural that accompanied a show 
of  Herman Miller furniture.

Girard is considered to have been one of the best textile designers of the 20th century. He is most well known for the textiles he produced while working as the director of design for Herman Miller (1952 - 1975). While there, he designed over 300 different fabrics and wallpapers and produced fabrics for the designs of Charles and Ray Eames.

Alexander Girard, Fruit Tree #1061 Drapery Fabric, 1961; Collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Alexander Girard, April #1009 Drapery Fabric, 1960; Collection of the San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art.

Alexander Girard fabric covering Eames chair manufactured for Herman Miller.

Girard’s designs were heavily influenced by the folk art he collected while abroad. During his lifetime, Girard and his wife amassed one of the world’s most important collections of cross-cultural folk art which is now housed at the Santa Fe Museum of International Folk Art. Girard created "doll" sculptures (like the one below) that were inspired by pieces from his folk art collection.

Alexander Girard "doll", 1963 part of the Vitra Design Museum's collection.

In addition to textile design, Girard was also commissioned to design several restaurants. The most well know was the La Fonda del Sol Restaurant located in the Time Life building in New York City. He was hired in 1961 to design everything from the interior to the menus, matchbooks, and tableware. He received rave reviews for his design and was awarded a silver medal from the Architectural League of New York. The restaurant’s design was groundbreaking and inspired many future designers. I would love to be able to travel back in time to experience the setting in it's entirety - and at least pick up a matchbook or two!

Alexander Girard, La Fonda del Sol, 1961.

Alexander Girard, La Fonda el Sol, 1961, table setting.

Alexander Girard, La Fonda del Sol, 1961.

Alexander Girard, La Fonda del Sol, 1961, Menu.

Alexander Girard, La Fonda del Sol, 1961, Matchbook.

A new 672 page book on Girard by Todd Oldham and Kiera Coffee has just been published. It features many never before seen designs and photos and is making its way onto my Christmas list!

Alexander Girard, by Todd Oldham and Kiera Coffee, published December 2011.

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