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Tablecloth, Modern Spice

This is a Tablecloth. It was designed by Russel Wright and manufactured by Simtex Mills. It is dated ca. 1950 and we acquired it in 2011. Its medium is cotton, viscose rayon and its technique is twill weave. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Russel Wright was one of the most important pioneers in American design, especially recognized for his efforts to revolutionize how people live and relate to their domestic environment. As Donald Albrecht wrote in the catalog for the museum’s 2001–2 exhibition, Russel Wright: Creating American Lifestyle, Wright’s “inexpensive, mass produced dinnerware, furniture, appliances, and textiles were not only visually and technically innovative but were also the tools to achieve his concept of ‘easier living,’ a unique American lifestyle that was gracious yet contemporary and informal.”
To help complete his idea of an American lifestyle, Wright also designed textiles. This tablecloth represents one of his patterns, Modern Spice, which was produced by Simtex. Modern Spice was manufactured in two sizes: 52 by by 52 inches and 52 by 70 inches. It was included in Better Homes and Gardens in May 1951; the advertisement offers it in two colorways: Paprika and Curry—the Curry colorway is the textile under consideration. The ad also acknowledges Wright’s and Simtex’s “Good Design” distinction, bestowed upon them by MoMA as part of its Good Design exhibition series.

Modern Spice is a fairly intricate pattern in which four bands of color intersect to create a total of 10 different tones (four main colors plus the six blended combinations). This beautiful overlay of color on top of color is complex, but retains a simplicity of overall effect that suited the modern interior of 1950s America and appears timeless even today.
This would be the first example of a textile by Wright in the museum’s collection and would join over 100 works in the collection by Wright—from a design drawing for flatware to extensive examples from his American Modern line of tableware and serving accessories.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled A tablecloth for 'easier living'.

It is credited Gift of George R. Kravis II.

  • Sidewall (USA)
  • machine-printed.
  • Gift of the Appleman Family in memory of Betty and Ira Appleman.
  • 1997-4-4

Our curators have highlighted 1 object that are related to this one.

Its dimensions are

Warp x Weft: 111.8 x 122.6 cm (44 in. x 48 1/4 in.)

It is inscribed

Sewn-in label: "Made Right in America"

Cite this object as

Tablecloth, Modern Spice; Designed by Russel Wright ((American, 1904–1976)); Manufactured by Simtex Mills; USA; cotton, viscose rayon; Warp x Weft: 111.8 x 122.6 cm (44 in. x 48 1/4 in.); Gift of George R. Kravis II; 2011-44-2

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Energizing the Everyday: Gifts From the George R. Kravis II Collection.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Tablecloth, Modern Spice |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=20 March 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>