Fabric sample with Pre-columbian inspired designs

Fabric sample with Pre-columbian inspired designs

c. 1928-1936
Elena Izcue, Peruvian artist, 1889-1970
Born: Lima, Peru
Paris, France
fabric sample
Hand-printed natural silk
Accession Number
Credit Line
Gift of Boo and David Butler

Elena Izcue, Fabric Sample with Pre-columbian Inspired Designs, about 1928-36. Hand-printed natural silk; 18 × 10⅜ in. Gift of Boo and David Butler, 2016.303.

height: 18 in, 45.7200 cm; width: 10 3/8 in, 26.3525 cm
Mayer Center, Latin American Art
Latin American Contemporary Art

A cultural movement developed in Peru in the 1920s aimed at recovering the pre-Columbian aesthetic. The movement was rooted in the Indianist ideology, which was chiefly promoted by the painter José Sabogal (1888–1956) and fostered by recent developments of Peruvian archaeology, including the discovery of Machu Picchu in 1911 by the American archeologist Hiram Bingham. Inspired by interwar nationalistic ideologies, Peruvian artists and intellectuals looked at pre-Columbian themes and visual repertoires as sources for national identity. Artists considered that looking at the past was not a step backward; on the contrary, by extoling the grandeur of ancient Peru they would create a model infused with local values that would open a path to the future. Thanks to the rich Peruvian craft traditions, the design and manufacture of everyday life objects offered an extraordinary opportunity for experimentation. The Peruvian artist, Elena Izcue (1889–1970) was one of the most important advocates in this nationalistic movement.

Trained as an art teacher and painter, Izcue saw pre-Columbian art as a pedagogical tool. In 1926, with the support of the philanthropist and collector of pre-Columbian art Rafael Larco Herrera (1872–1956), Izcue published in Paris a two-volume set entitled El arte peruano en la escuela (Peruvian Art in the School), a pattern book with pre-Columbian motifs to be used for artistic instruction. Imbued in nationalistic ideas, the publication offered local models for stimulating childrens’ creativity. In 1927, encouraged by the success of the book, Izcue moved to Paris to complete her education. She studied printmaking and graphic arts with Andrée Karpelès de Högman, Fernand Leger, Marcel Gromaire and Jean Darua. In Paris she saw an opportunity to continue her research on the application of pre-Columbian art on modern life. From 1928 to 1938 Izcue set up a small workshop that produced hand printed textiles, garments and decorative objects with pre-Columbian inspired motifs.

Izcue found her own path in the fashion industry in Paris and New York. The fashion designer Jean-Charles Worth, by then head of The House of Worth, became one of the main clients and promoters of Izcue. He retailed her production and promoted her designs among Worth’s elite clientele. Izcue also collaborated with other fashion designers such as Edward Molyneux and Elsa Schiaparelli. She also exhibited and retailed her work in New York City though Saks & Company and Henri Bendel.

Known Provenance
Gifted to Denver Art Museum by David and Boo Butler in 2016.
Exhibition History
  • "Elena Izcue: Lima - Paris, Annees 30"—Musée du quai Branly, 4/1/2008 - 7/18/2008