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Retrospective exhibition featuring tapestries and paintings by Bernat Klein on view at Dovecot Gallery
Bernat Klein, A Life in Colour, Dovecot tapestries, Scandia (detail). Courtesy Dovecot Gallery. Photo: Stuart Armitt.

EDINBURGH.- A Life in Colour is a retrospective exhibition featuring tapestries and paintings by the textile designer and artist Bernat Klein at Dovecot Gallery from 31 July to 26 September 2015.

Serbian-born Bernat Klein CBE (1922-2014) studied textile technology at Leeds University Textile Department until 1948, after which he embarked upon a career designing woven textiles leading him to Edinburgh to work for Munrospun. In 1950 the company relocated to the Scottish Borders and two years later Klein established his own luxury textile enterprise, Colourcraft.

Architect Peter Womersley was commissioned to modernise Colourcraft’s Netherdale Mill at Galashiels, and to design the award winning modernist house and studio at High Sunderland near Selkirk, where Klein remained until the end of his life. The A listed studio building is now privately owned but is registered at risk with flood damage having halted progress to redevelop the property into flats. The subject of Klein supporters, emerging artists and architects alike, the modernist studio and house attracts much interest today. Many have championed to have the High Sunderland buildings restored and have depicted them as subjects for their own work; notably Toby Paterson and most recently Andrew Mackenzie. Bernat Klein’s daughter Shelley Klein resides at the house, and has worked closely with Dovecot to realise this exhibition in memory of her late father.

Klein’s signature vibrant mohair and tweed textiles were produced in the Scottish Borders for fashion houses in Europe until the 1980s when production was sought elsewhere in the Far East. Klein’s commercial success can be attributed to his artistic flair for colour and texture, which won him ultimate acclaim amongst the fashion editors of publications including Vogue and Elle. As a reaction to the utilitarian and earthy colour schemes of 1950s Scottish fashion and interior textiles, colourist Klein embraced a bright new palette inspired by his natural surroundings. From his own Pointillist inspired oil paintings and designs for Chanel, Dior and Yves Saint Laurent fabrics, to the sumptuous furnishings and floral printed fashion synthetics, seen in the iconic glamour photography of the 60s and 70s, colour technology was at the heart of Klein’s practice.

This eye for colour and design was applied to a variety of media by Klein, as illustrated in this exhibition of works spanning five decades, and including tapestries created in collaboration with the Dovecot weavers in 1971. From a suite of 10 tapestries, three including Highland Pool are part of the National Museums of Scotland Bernat Klein collection, Sea and Sky was sold at a Christie’s auction in 1994 in Glasgow and five of the remaining will be made available for sale during A Life in Colour. The tapestries directly emulate the deeply folding creases of Klein’s painted works, examples of which will also appear in the exhibition. In other works, Klein incorporates his own woven and polyester fabrics. Provencal Scarlet is a bold collage of thickly applied paint, interwoven with rich pink and velvet ribbon - the Chanel fabrics seen on the catwalks of Paris in 1968.

Dovecot Gallery presents this exhibition in recognition of the lasting contribution Klein made to Scotland’s international reputation for textile design and making.

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