Of Love 'Tis the Garden

Rafael Masó Foundation

Masó and the Textiles

"Bellflowers versus poppies"
Masó's initial works from 1903 until nearly 1910, very much fell into Art Nouveau, although he did not wish to be considered as this.  Later, around 1911, in his drawings appeared small birds and bellflowers, which, together, with the previously used hearts and crosses, would thereafter always appear. So, slowly, he assimilated English and Central European models definitively into his own particular style.

In Catalonia, however, architects were still considered monolithic and rather inflexible. Nevertheless, Masó was a man who had neither fear nor perjudice in exploring female world of the home and domesticity, without regret, enjoying it freely.

From scallop trims he learned architectural ceramics; from crochet work how to design railings and make iron ethereal-like, however rigid and hard an element of protection it was; and sgraffito and door lintels from embroidery and initials.

Symbols for a country
Masó was involved in conservative Catholic Catalan nationalism and, fervently, practiced and propagated it. It is therefore unsurprising that he was a prolific and enthusiastic creator of flags and banners. He is, in fact, the architect who designed by far the greatest number.

The first project of his career was precisely this flag of the Sometent de Girona (Girona militia), which he undertook before he had even completed his studies. Masó established a serene and orderly geometric arrangement with inscriptions in Neogothic calligraphy, and a double cross, formed by overlapping the Catalan Senyera flag with the motto of the institution.

In 1904, Masó designed another flag, the Marian Congregation for the Girona Seminary. It was a work of some size and a rather simple composition. The face of the Virgin was made with appliqué and embroidery.

After qualifying, in 1907, he designed the magnificient Tapestry of the Confraternity of Sant Jordi of Girona, a master-piece with a powerful iconography associated with tradition as a value of identity.

His last documented flag is that of the Joventut Catòlica Regionalista of Girona, which was made in 1916. All that remains are the real-scale cardboard or paper templates for marking out the embroidery on the base fabric of the flag.

Embroidery with pearls
This small cushion, that Masó drew and had made for Casa Masó, is a later and less imaginative minor and private work. It does fall within the category of sumptuous sacred art, despite the humble materials used.

The base fabric of this cushion is an imitation of a seventeenth-century fabric that features a rather austere embroidered cross surrounded by an aura of pearls in arabesque calligraphy.

"Veni ad domum illuminare"
Masó drew hundreds of initials on handkerchiefs and sets of bed linen, and there remain many preparatory sketches, some of which are neat and copied out anew while others appear on the back of envelopes, cards, printed documents or bills, as any surface was a good place for inventing and conveying ideas.

At the very beginning everything must have started with an initial for a handkerchief, for which the mother and sisters required a good draughtsman, who at that time, was not even an architect.

Masó shows profound knowledge of domestic craftwork and as in architecture and ceramics, he also blended popular tradition with cultured, modern and well-connected insight into the most innovative European trends.

His hand, or his advice and guidance, is also apparent in most doilies, including all those from the dining room, the table and the sideboards, and the others on bedside tables, dressers and by the sink.

For some doilies, the drawings have survived, while for others there only remains the finished piece, even though his influence in each is quite evident.

The bird motif -abstract of an unspecified species- is often repeated in other domestic embroidery projects. In this case, the bird, which may represent peace and therefore Paula, predominates this pincushion.

Rafael Masó was influenced by foreign, and particularly German publications, and an insight gained from reading what his contemporaries, the instigators of Noucentisme, wrote about design and lifestyle.

German cushions
There was such interest in textiles in Central Europe and in the Nordic countries that a new magazine, entitled "Stickereien & Spitzen" (Embroidery and Lace) was specifically created. Masó subscribed to it and the magazine immediately became an important source of inspiration.

This item is directly associated with the Viennese and German workshops. It's a very faithful reproduction of a large cushion by Emanuel Josef Margold, published by the magazine Stickereien & Spitzen.

"God and Thy Name"
The engagement of Rafael Masó and Esperança Bru lasted over six long years. The countless letters they sent to one another, in strict secrecy, are legendary. Each letter invariably started with "Déu i ton nom" (God and thy name) repeated a thousand times over, with a repertoire brimming with letters and ornaments.

It was in the bedroom of the Masó apartment that textiles were most prominent, by way of a happy ending to a long romance. Masó had drawn in great detail all the embroidery for the sheets, pillowcases and sheer curtains.

The preparatory drawing for the sets of bed linen, for the Aragó Masó couple, bears the initials MB, which means that they may well have been intended for the architect himself and his wife.

However, the finished sheets, bear the initials AM, which correspond to the Aragó Masó family. It is also possible that more than one set could have been made for the different families.

Once married, Masó ventured into clothing and drew crocheted and tatting lace collars -which Esperança made delicately- and perhaps, the occasional dressing gown and summer dress.

"God and My Name"
Forming a family was the culmination of Masó's life project. Many drawings of camisoles show Masó's enthusiasm for his children. They were often rendered on printed sheets and envelopes that were reused to try out all their initials.

In some camisoles, the scallop trim of the neckline bears a legend: Déu i mon nom (God and my name).

Most of his works for clothing have geometric shapes around the neck, well trimmed and feature broderie anglaise on the chest.

Fundació Rafael Masó
Credits: Story

All works reproduced in this exhibition are by Rafael Masó Valentí, unless otherwise indicated.

This exhibition was curated by Josep Casamartina i Parassols and produced by the Fundació Rafael Masó. The online presentation was designed by Cristina Pinsach.

The Fundació Rafael Masó is supported by Ajuntament de Girona, Col·legi d'Arquitectes de Catalunya-Demarcació de Girona, Col·legi d'Aparelladors Arquitectes Tècnics i Enginyers d'Edificació de Girona, Universitat de Girona, and the Masó and Aragó families.

Credits: All media
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