Mariano Fortuny : His Life and Work
His Life and Work
Guillermo de Osma
Mariano Fortuny was a visionary designer and artist – best known today for his rich, innovative textiles and opulent dress designs, he was also an accomplished painter, etcher and photographer, as well as a designer of theatrical sets, costumes and lighting, revolutionising the stagecraft of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with his ambitious lighting designs. Fortuny's varied and sumptuous output has acquired almost mythological status in the canon of early twentieth-century Aestheticism. Guillermo de Osma sets out to provide a complete and authoritative account of his life and work. Born in 1871, into a famous family of artists, critics, architects and craftsmen, Fortuny benefitted from an eclectic artistic education, and inherited his father's passion for collecting, as well as his interest in the art and artefacts of the Arabic world. He supplemented this early immersion in the art world with his own ‘Grand Tour' of Europe's cultural centres, including Paris and Bayreuth, where he was introduced to the work of composer Richard Wagner. Fortuny eventually settled in Venice and, from his studio in the Palazzo Orfei, began to create work in the burgeoning tradition of Aestheticism, rejecting the hierarchies and barriers between the arts and creating 2D artwork as well as furniture, textiles and stage designs for pioneering opera and ballet productions. The ‘Delphos robe' is perhaps the quintessential Fortuny creation – a dress as work of art, with its origins in progressive theatrical costume design, that went on to be worn by avant-garde figures including Isadora Duncan and was even immortalized by Proust in ‘Remembrance of Things Past'. Hand-dyed and pleated to a patented design, this figure-skimming robe was considered shocking on its first appearance in 1907 but examples still appear on red carpets today. Bringing together craftsmanship, liberal principles of ‘rational dress' and a deep immersion in the dress traditions of the Arabic and Classical worlds, it is an iconic garment that transcends fashion.
Guillermo de Osma read History of Art at the University of Madrid, and has worked in the print department at the Royal Academy of Spain and in the art department of Sotheby's London. He organised the major exhibition Mariano Fortuny: Venice at the Musee Historique des Tissus in Lyon, France