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Cranbrook Mourns the Passing of Jack Lenor Larsen

December 23rd, 2020

This week, we were saddened to learn of the passing of Jack Lenor Larsen (Fiber ’51). Considered one of the most influential and prolific textile designers of the 20th century, Larsen explored both modern style and historical methods in his practice.

In a 1998 interview with The New York Times, he said, “I like ancient techniques and the cutting edge. The extremes are always more interesting than the middle.”

At the University of Washington, Larsen was a teaching assistant to Cranbrook Academy of Art alumnus Ed Rossbach, who suggested Larsen continue his studies at the Academy. He received a scholarship at Rossbach’s recommendation and completed his graduate course work in only nine months, graduating from Cranbrook with his MFA in 1951.

In 1952, he opened a studio in New York City and went on to shape the textile design of postwar American homes and workplaces, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Eero Saarinen’s Miller House, and Pan American Airlines. Read the obituary in The New York Times here for a full record of his illustrious career.

“First and foremost, Jack Lenor Larsen was a maker. His use of traditional hand techniques and materials that he adapted into innovative technologies and applications was transformative,” said Susan R. Ewing, the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Director of Cranbrook Academy of Art. “His profound leadership and critical vision for contemporary crafts especially impacted the educational and outreach missions of the American Craft Council and the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. His legacy will continue to resonate and inspire a contemporary generation of 21st-century makers, educators, and companies. We at Cranbrook celebrate his global influence, inspiration, and contributions to our shared ideals.”

His textiles are in the permanent collections of Cranbrook Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs at the Louvre, which gave him a one-man retrospective in 1981.

He is profiled in the upcoming publication, With Eyes Opened: Cranbrook Academy of Art Since 1932 and will have work featured in the exhibition of the same name opening at Cranbrook Art Museum in June 2021.

Watch an interview with Larsen here, filmed just last year by furniture manufacturer OFS.