Sunday, August 12, 2018

Kovarsky Scarf

Last week, I received an e-mail from Rachel Pero, an avid fan of New Yorker cartoonist Anatol Kovarsky. She shared a couple of photos of her delightful silk scarf designed by the artist some six decades ago. It measures approximately 30" x 30” and is a fashion accessory I never dreamed existed. The scarf is a vibrant depiction of apartment life in the big city, with bold red and yellow colors.

Anatol Kovarsky
Rear Window
Scarf design for Richard Farrar

Photograph courtesy of Rachel Pero

Farrar by Kovarsky
Photograph courtesy of Rachel Pero

A quick internet search
revealed another Kovarsky scarf design, this one posted by Atlanta illustrator Laura Coyle, which shows a family watching TV as observed through a window. Surrounding vignettes
depict all the available programs.
Naturally wishing to know more about these scarves, I contacted the artist's daughter, Gina Kovarsky. She wrote back:

Indeed, my father was commissioned in the mid-fifties by Richard Farrar to create several designs for silk scarves that were printed in several color schemes. Two of the designs are for large scarves full of amusing details. The one Rachel has (called "Rear Window," I assume thus named because of the similarity with Hitchcock's film) was also done in blue, in mustard yellow, and in red, as I think was the other large one... There was also the one you're referring to with the TV in the center, and all around it vignettes showing what was on the different channels.

A detail of my dad's "Rear Window" appears on p. 96 of Andrew Baseman's beautiful book The Scarf (text by Harold Carlton, photographs by Robin Nedboy), published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang (1989). The detail from dad's scarf gets a full page to itself. Andrew Baseman collected the amazing scarves in the book over a period of ten years from 1979 when he bought his first scarf. As he writes in the Foreword, "It was signed by Charles Addams, and it depicted characters from his New Yorker cartoons." A photo of that scarf is on the facing page.

Several other New Yorker cartoonists' scarves are also included in the book. Here's the blurb (from Amazon): 

A celebration of the scarf not only as a fashion accessory but as a work of art. It chronicles the history and appeal of its subject, with examples from Hermes, Pucci and Givenchy, with printed bandanas, the limited-edition from l'Ascher, humorous souvenir scarves, Deco patterns and shawl-scarves. One chapter features one-of-a kind scarves created for "The Scarf" by such artists and designers as Kenny Scharf, Roz Chast, Maurice Sendak, Mary McFadden and the House of Balmain. The final chapter provides ideas for arranging, tying and wearing scarves. 

Dad also did several smaller square ones showing Grecian dancers with a Shakespearean motif ("All the world's a stage"), and several short narrower rectangular neck scarves: one with acrobats and another with jugglers, if memory serves.

Note:  In addition to the images of original art, correspondence, and rare published material by New Yorker artists that I always ask for, it seems now I must add a request for silk scarves. So be it!

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