Omega Workshops

Nestled near Tottenham Court Rd., London, are the Omega Workshops, which were established on May 14th, 1913 at 33 Fitzroy Square.  The Omega Workshops were an artistic and cultural hub, founded by artist and philosopher, Roger Fry, who coined Post-Impressionism.  His workshops were the first to fully embrace Post-Impressionism, which brought experimental design to Edwardian Britain, and was founded and made up of other significant members of Bloomsbury, like E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Clive Bell, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, and Ethel Sands.  Fry’s goal to unify artists like himself, would finally come together and soon embrace the urgency to carry out products of brash, bold, and brutal colors, and fuel the inspiration to develop original art.

“Artists must protest against the remissness and indifference of the governing classes who instead of enfrocing the adultrered foods act., stamp it all over with the givernment stamp, indicating that it is gaurenteed to be the best dairy-made butter.” -Roger Fry

             33 Fitzroy Square, London. (from 1929 to 2003 the London Foot Hospital) 

                               Fry, Roger. Poster, 1918. Lithograph. 

One of the unique characteristics that distinguished the products from this workshop, was that it allowed artists to anonymously contribute their work.  By prohibiting artists to sign their work, and only allowing them to label it with the Greek letter Ω Omega, it created a personal trait that was only exclusive to those involved.  The Omega is also symbolic of the end of an art era, as the omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet.

Letter from Roger Fry to Vanessa Bell including a sketch for an Omega rug design
© Annabel Cole

“Post Impressionism as a present known will have any real effect upon true art I think nobody believes” -Richard Herford

Fry’s vision for the workshops set out to “provide an income and an outlet for artists who ascribed to the Post Impressionism aesthetic but not to socialist ideals”, which he successfully embarked on, in challenging the commercial market in domestic interiors.  Especially, given this time period, art was created for pleasure, not for money.  The Omega workshops were not solely a place of conventional art, like paintings, in fact, it covered multiple aspects of art including furniture, linens, decor for the home, rugs, and clothing.

“State should allow complete free trade in art, and refuse all subventions and all honours to artiste.” -Roger Fry

Bell, Vanessa and Grant, Duncan. Printed Linen 1913 (Printed)
Fry, Roger. Omega dining chairs , 1913.

 

Fry, Roger. Amenophis, 1913. Stencil-printed linen, 71 x 79.5 cm.

 

According to Fry, a work of art must have the power of making the “outsider” – the audience – “whose eyes are the least active of his senses, aware of something real and exciting, … in perfect simplicity.”   By creating authenticity in the omega products, taking a more abstract and liberated approach, it provided a place for those post WWI counterparts to enjoy the ebullient art pieces which the Omega Workshops presented.  Ultimately, putting collective minds in unison to break the conventional isolated artist in the studio, technique.

 

Grant, Duncan. Design, 1913-15, The Courtauld Gallery © Estate of Duncan Grant. All rights reserved, DACS 2009.
Fry, Roger. Painted Plate with Letter Omega, 1913 © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the Omega Workshops were short-lived and shut down in 1919 because of financial conflicts, they held a significant pivotal influence on art and interior design, ultimately being a revolutionary development during its existence.

Work Cited

“OMEGA Workshop.” Pinterest. N.p., 27 Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2017. <https://www.pinterest.com/pin/128845239313737667/>.

“Pamela | Bell, Vanessa.” V&A Search the Collections. Victoria and Albert Museum, 2017. Web. 18 Nov. 2017. <https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O190446/pamela-furnishing-fabric-bell-vanessa/>.

Pesulo, Laura. “Mystery Monday: Roger Fry and the Omega Workshops.” ON PINS AND NEEDLES. N.p., 03 May 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2017. <https://pinsndls.com/2013/05/03/mystery-monday-roger-fry-and-the-omega-workshops/>.

Reed, Christopher. “A Roger Fry Reader.” Google Books, University of Chicago Press, 15 July 1996, books.google.com/books/about/A_Roger_Fry_Reader.html?id=IDsxXfnGNiYC.

Staff, Tate. “The Story of Omega Workshops – Look Closer.” Tate.org.uk. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2017. <http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/o/omega-workshops/story-omega-workshops>.

Woolf, Virginia. “Roger Fry, A Biography.” Full Text of “Roger Fry A Biography”. HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY NEW YORK., 1940. Web. 18 Nov. 2017. <https://archive.org/stream/rogerfryabiograp010045mbp/rogerfryabiograp010045mbp_djvu.txt>.

 

 

 

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