Pinkham, Roger (ed.) Oliver Messel: an exhibition held at the Theatre Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, 22 June - 30 September 1983. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983. 200p., ill ISBN 0905209508)
Acquired with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Art Fund and the Friends of the V&A.
Textile design with fishes by Oliver Messel for Sekers, silk manufacturer, 1953 or 1959.
Height: 37.9 cm, Width: 25.1 cm
Lord Snowdon, Oliver Messel's nephew, inherited Messel's theatre designs and other designs and artefacts. The designs were briefly stored in a disused chapel in Kensington Palace before being housed at the V&A from 1981 on indefinite loan. The V&A Theatre Museum purchased the Oliver Messel collection from Lord Snowdon in 2005.
Possibly designed for the 'Coronation Collection', 1953, or possibly later, 1959.
Reason For Production: Commission
Great Britain’s leading theatre designer from the early 1930s to the mid 1950s, Oliver Messel (1904-1978) won international acclaim for his lavish, painterly and poetic designs informed by period styles. His work spans ballet, drama, film, musical, opera and revue. Messel’s traditional style of theatre design became unfashionable from the mid 1950s onwards, and he increasingly concentrated on painting, interior and textile design, including designing luxury homes in the Caribbean.
In addition to his work as a theatre designer, Messel designed textiles for the silk making firm Sekers based in Whitehaven, Cumbria. Sir Nicholas Sekers, the owner of the silk mill and a great supporter of the theatre, regularly supplied the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne with fabrics and met Messel in the early 1950s. Both men shared a belief in exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail. Messel’s contemporary artists, Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) and Graham Sutherland (1903-1980), also designed fabrics for the firm.
To celebrate the Coronation of Elizabeth I in 1953, Sekers commissioned Messel to design silk brocade patterns, known as the ‘Coronation Collection’. Messel also created designs for taffeta in 1959.