- Reliefs - Cards - Prints - Paintings - Incorrect Attribution

'Heal’s Picture Gallery and Craftsman’s Market present an exhibition of abstract design (Pictures, sculpture, prints and table linen) by thirteen artists in collaboration with Porthia Prints

Designers of fabrics repeatedly draw on the inventiveness of contemporary printers and sculptors for their inspiration. This is bad if it perverts or destroys the impact of the artists’ ideas on his public, but it can be a good thing if it helps to break down the separateness of the artist, enabling people to become familiar with his idioms by incorporating them directly into their everyday lives.

Recently Porthia Prints invited a number of painters and sculptors, who are not normally fabric designers, to solve a simple problem of functional design. The first results of this experiment form the present exhibition. One part is composed of the table mats, screen printed in two colours on to linen, from the designs of these artists. The other part of the exhibition is of paintings, prints and sculptures by the same artists, so that we can see how, in solving his problem of design, each painter and sculptor has used again the particular personal idiom of his art.'

The above is the introduction for an exhibition of work that took place at Heal & Son Limited in London opening Tuesday 1st March 1955. It included thirteen place mats, featuring the designs of 13 artists, screen printed by Porthia Prints

Very little else has been written, or known, about Porthia prints, set up by Denis and Stanley Dorfman in the 1950's. Mention is made in Avant-Garde British Printmaking 1914-60 by Frances Carey and Anthony Griffiths, pp178-179 & p185 (British Museum Publications ISBN 0714116467). The exhibition is mentioned in the Tate exhibition catalogue 'St Ives 1939-64' p109 and notes the years that denis was involved, 1953-60 (Tate Gallery Publications ISBN 0946590206). An exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in 1986 showed six of the mats and a fuller exhibition of the mats was organised by the Belgrave Gallery, St Ives in conjunction with Margaret Howell, London in 2006. Margaret Howell also produced a calendar featuring twelve designs for 2008. That just about sums up all we know about Porthia Prints.

If you can add to our meagre knowledge we would love to hear from you.

The catalogue for the show is included under exhibitions while images of mats by the 13 artists who took part in the original exhibition are shown here. They may not be the 13 designs that were printed for the exhibition as other designs exist, but they do give a pretty good impression of what was produced.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Robert Adams W. Barnes Graham Stanley Dorfman John Forrester
Terry Frost William Gear Barbara Hepworth Patrick Heron
Roger Hilton Peter Lanyon Denis Mitchell Michael Snow
John Wells