Vera Paints a Scarf celebrates the work of artist Vera Neumann (1907-1993) and her contributions to the field of American design. Neumann was among the most successful female design entrepreneurs of the 20th century, and an originator of the American lifestyle brand. Over the course of her career, which spanned from her label’s debut in 1942 to her death in 1993, Neumann produced an iconic line of women's scarves all signed with a cursive “Vera” and stamped with a ladybug, as well as thousands of textile patterns based on her drawings, paintings, and collages. This exhibition will be the first to comprehensively examine her career—and highlights the keys to her success: her joyful and inventive aesthetic, democratic design ethos, fusion of craft and mass production, and clever marketing.
Telling the story of the artist behind the Vera brand, Vera Paints a Scarf will offer a selection of paintings produced in Neumann’s preferred technique, Japanese sumi-e (ink painting), from which her textile designs derive. The exhibition will then continue with a broad exploration of her design work through over two hundred objects from her lines for the home and women’s fashion produced between 1950 and 1980, including original works on paper, textiles and garments, archival photographs and video, as well as the ephemera related to the company’s marketing campaigns, which ingeniously used the tagline “Vera paints” to promote her mass-market label.
Vera Paints a Scarf: The Art and Design of Vera Neumann is curated by Elissa Auther, MAD’s Windgate Research and Collections Curator with the support of Curatorial Assistant Alida Jekabson. Additional support was provided by Rachael Schwabe and George Tiger Liu.