When my longtime student Virginia Bayer told me that her grandmother, Marguerita Mergentime was an influential and passionate textile designer, active in interwar New York, I immediately went to the literature to look her up. I could not find her in the encyclopedic volume Women Designers in the USA by Pat Kirkham, nor in any of the numerous publications on American design during the Jazz Age and the Depression. Not a word. I then learnt from Bayer, whose home is filled with examples of the work by the textile designer who died in her 40s, that Mergentime was a stylish tastemaker, who participated in the creation of genuine American design, but whose prolific career was completely ignored by those writing history. She was living in the famed apartment building the Beresford on Central Park West, in a stylish apartment, the only private residence designed by Viennese architect Frederick Kiesler (above), where she designed avant-garde textiles for such prolific projects as Radio City Music Hall; museum exhibitions; the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco; World of Tomorrow, the World’s Fair held in New York in the eve of WWII, just to name a few. But along with these prolific projects, Mergentime's work was visible to millions living in America, using her napkins, tablecloths, shower curtains, sheets, towels, all printed with modern motifs, departed from the traditional Victorian themes, and moving American taste towards the modern. With a great graphic sensibility that came to express the American spirit and glory of these decades, Mergentime succeeded to reinvent a new and American lifestyle. Now, that Bayer published a book 'Marguerita Mergentime: American Textiles, Modern Ideas,' a comprehensive volume that presents the personal voice, her grandmother's legacy is secured. An upcoming talk and book signing event with all the authors at the Cooper Hewitt on May 9th, to which I have already purchased a ticket, comes to illuminate the career of this designer who came to shape a new sensibility of the American home.
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