This joyful and vibrant textile panel is the most recent acquisition into the collections of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. It was designed and produced by Tibor Reich to celebrate the 1969 Bicentenary of the Garrick Jubilee. Reich had been commissioned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to produce some commemorative designs to celebrate the occasion.
Over the next two blogs, we will be looking at the life and works of leading textile designer and producer, Tibor Reich (1916 - 1996), and finding out more about is relationship with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the town of Stratford.
The Bicentenary of the Garrick Jubilee, 1969
In the years leading up to 1969 the Director of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Dr Levi Fox, began to plan a celebration to coincide with the 200 year anniversary of the Garrick Jubilee. You can find out more about the Garrick Jubilee. The Bicentenary celebrations were organised by the Garrick Celebrations Committee, which was made up of representatives from the Stratford Borough Council, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the Shakespeare Institute. The special events were kicked off with Shakespeare's Birthday celebrations in April, followed by two special exhibitions on the Garrick Jubilee at the Shakespeare Centre and Hall's Croft. The Poetry Festival came next, and after that, on the same dates in September as the original jubilee, a three day celebration for the Bicentenary. There were balls, morris and folk dancing, a race meet on the same field in Shottery as the 18th Century one, banquets, a commemorative service at Holy Trinity Church, music, a special cricket match on the Bancroft, and the planting of a young mulberry tree in the Great Garden at New Place. Many of the events and the music were the same as those of the 18th Century. Actors and actresses from the RSC - including Judi Dench, Peggy Ashcroft, and Donald Sinden - played a part in the celebrations.
Tibor Reich: Early Life and Learning
The eye-catching panel shown above was commissioned by the SBT to be shown in the exhibition at the Shakespeare Centre that told the story of the original Jubilee. Over the next few blogs, we will find out why Tibor Reich, the son of a Hungarian manufacturer of woven braids, was chosen to commemorate this special event.
Reich was born in Hungary in 1916. His father always encouraged him to draw and he began training as an architect before going on to study textile design and technology in Europe and England. He attributed his greatest influences to the colours and metallic decoration in Hungarian braids and his education in Vienna in the 1930s. Reich originally left Hungary for the same reason that many Jewish people had to leave their homelands in the 1930s and 1940s - the rise of Nazism in Europe. The Hungarian government passed a law that restricted the registration of Jewish students at Universities. In an interview in 1995, Reich explained that 'I left Hungary because they wouldn't accept me at the University; I was going to study architecture originally. They only accepted 5% of the Jewish population for further education and I missed out'.
Instead, Reich went to Vienna where he was immersed in the new and modern textile design of the Werkstatte and Bauhaus. He then travelled to England where he attended the University of Leeds. It may not sounds as exotic as Vienna but at the time, Leeds was regarded worldwide as the premier institute to study textile technology, science, and woven fabric design. Tibor Reich's later success as a designer and manufacturer of textiles has often been attributed to his flair for design and his understanding and use of the latest technologies and materials.
Whilst still a student, Reich designed a "leopard skin" tweed that was bought by the House of Molyneux and put into production as a fashion fabric to export to the United States. An export order to the value of nearly $100,000 represented Reich's first step to becoming internationally recognised for his work. After graduating from Leeds, Reich spent a very short time working for Tootal Broadhurst Lee Co. Ltd. before deciding to set up his own company. The location he chose was Clifford Mill, just outside Stratford-upon-Avon. Look out for the next blog in the Shakespeareana Series to find out more about Tibor Ltd and its relationship to Stratford and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.