The Suitcase Lady

Vera

May 12, 2015, 9:17 pm

A rainbow must have been overhead on the day Vera Neumann was born. This iconic mid-century artist’s scarves are explosions of color and design.  She is also famous for making wearable art affordable in an age when the term “wearable art” didn’t exist. “Color is the language I speak best,” she said.

Born to Russian immigrant parents in Stanford, Connecticut in 1907, Vera was given art lessons as a child and taken to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art every Sunday. Her father gave her 50 cents for every sketchbook she filled. After graduating from Cooper Union and Traphagen School of Design, Vera began her career designing children’s furniture and murals.

The perfect alchemy occurred when Vera married George Neumann. His family was in the textile business, and together they created their company, Printex. Beginning with placemats which they silk screened on the dining room table in their small apartment, the company flourished.

The outbreak of World War II brought fabric shortages. Vera began experimenting with parachute silk which was available at army surplus stores. The scarves she created are now part of design history.

Vera was an astoundingly prolific artist. Using a Japanese sumi brush, she painted designs filled with bold colors, movement and spontaneity. Subject matter ranged from flowers, fruits,vegetables, butterflies and leaves to geometric designs. In addition to her scarves, other products with her trademark signature of “Vera” followed by a ladybug include sheets, towels, table cloths and napkins, dishes and casual clothing. Her mission was to produce one print a day which explains why her archive encompasses 7,000 designs.

When I was thirteen years old, I was thrilled to find a Vera blouse marked down to a dollar…..definitely within my budget. I happily still wear that blouse and my collection of Vera treasures continues to grow. I check out the scarves in every antique and thrift store I visit and sometimes I find a vintage Vera. That is a rainbow day!

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Above photos taken at Goldstein Museum of Design, St. Paul, MN

 

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