Althea McNish: Colour is Mine at The Whitworth

Maja Lorkowska, Exhibitions Editor
Althea McNish (1933-2020)Althea McNish: Colour is Mine at The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Exhibition poster design, Photo: Hodder/ANL/Shutterstock, Design: Mark El-khatib

Althea McNish: Colour is Mine at The Whitworth, Manchester 21 October 2022 — 23 April 2023 Entrance is free — Visit now

This season, The Whitworth is hosting an exhibition by the incredible textile designer and painter Althea McNish. Althea McNish: Colour is Mine is a major retrospective touring from the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow. Instead of opting for the colours of autumn, the gallery will be bathed in the vibrant hues and bold patterns of McNish’s textile and wallpaper designs.

Born in Trinidad, McNish and her mother moved to England in 1950 to join her father. After studying design and printmaking including a postgraduate degree in textiles at the Royal College of Art, young Althea quickly gained fame amongst the biggest names in design at the time. Her graduate collection was purchased on the spot by businessman and designer Zika Ascher, and she also received commissions from Liberty London. The exhibition will feature examples of many of her most iconic designs for legendary firms like Dior, Cavendish Textiles, Heal’s, Hull Traders, and of course, Liberty.

‘Golden Harvest’, designed by Althea McNish,1957. Printed cotton satin, manufactured by Tofos Prints, c.1957-58. Image: Nicola Tree ©The McNish Trust

 

Althea McNish’s patterns are rooted in her unique Caribbean perspective – indeed, she referred to her own vision as the “tropical eye”. Her most famous pattern, Golden Harvest, was inspired by a wheat field she saw which reminded her of the Trinidad sugarcane plantations she remembered from her childhood. It is this uniqueness of vision along with undeniable design skill and an appetite for innovation that made McNish the first Caribbean designer to achieve international recognition. She is remembered as one of the most influential textile designers in the country.

‘Marina’ printed cotton, designed by Althea McNish for Liberty, 1957.
‘Marina’ printed cotton, designed by Althea McNish for Liberty, 1957. Credit: William Morris Gallery © The McNish Trust

 

The desire to experiment with techniques and push printmaking in previously unseen directions is yet another manifestation of McNish’s creativity. In the exhibition, viewers will find a prototype for a mural she created for the restaurant of a cruise ship. The design shows an innovative technique devised by the artist for printing her designs directly onto panels of Wareite plastic.

Interestingly, while developing technical skills in printmaking and textiles, McNish also continued to exhibit her paintings throughout her career. She saw herself as simply an artist and decisively erased any lines between the fields of fine art and design in her practice.

Murals designed by Althea McNish in the Dining Room of SS Oriana. © P&O HERITAGE and/or reproduced by kind permission of P&O Heritage

 

With her home country close to her heart, McNish’s work was exhibited with the Trinidad Art Society between 1948-53 and she became a member of the Caribbean Arts Movement in London along with artists such as painter Aubrey Williams and sculptor Ronald Moody whose work you’ll also find in Althea McNish: Colour is Mine. The show also features pieces by the artist’s friends and contemporaries: tutors Edward Bawden and Eduardo Paolozzi, Trinidad Art Society’s Sybil Atteck, as well as contemporary designers Barbara Brown and Shirley Craven.

Althea McNish: Colour is Mine is a celebration of print, colour, pattern and the success of a truly unique artist who influenced the world of design and will continue to be an inspiration for generations to come.

Althea McNish: Colour is Mine at The Whitworth, Manchester 21 October 2022 — 23 April 2023 Entrance is free Visit now

What's on at The Whitworth

OUTDOOR ART CLUB AT THE WHITWORTH
Until
ChildrensManchester
Outdoor Art Club at The Whitworth

Enjoy fun and creative activities designed to encourage your little ones to play freely in the fresh air, while exploring nature and the outdoors with family and friends.

free entry

Where to go near Althea McNish: Colour is Mine at The Whitworth

Manchester
Bar or Pub
Big Hands

Big Hands is the one-time haunt of legendary Manchester band Elbow; it’s shabby, loud and dark, with a jukebox and excellent roof terrace.

The Giving Tree
Manchester
Restaurant
The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree is a cafe and community hub based in Rusholme, a short walk from the city centre.

Pankhurst Centre
Manchester
Museum
The Pankhurst Centre

The Pankhurst Centre houses a small museum and heritage centre that remains as a legacy to the Pankhurst family and the Suffragette movement born in this city.

Whitworth Park, Manchester
Manchester
Park
Whitworth Park

This 18-acre park opposite the Manchester Royal Infirmary provides a welcome patch of green in an otherwise densely populated and heavily used part of the city.

Manchester
Music venue
Manchester Academy 3

Brilliant venue for catching a touring band on the rise. The boringly titled Academy 3 or more interesting Hop and Grape, as it was once known, is a self contained…

Manchester Academy music venue on Oxford Road Manchester.
Manchester
Music venue
Manchester Academy

The Manchester Academy is a mid size, modern warehouse venue adjacent to the University of Manchester Students’ Union. It lacks any architectural merit and has always been a difficult place…

Cafe at the Museum
Manchester
Café or Coffee Shop
The Cafe
at the Museum

Manchester Museum’s cafe is run by the people behind award-winning cafe Teacup Kitchen. The menu features home-baked cakes, the finest loose leaf teas and breakfast, as well as a wide selection of mains and meals for kids.

What's on: Exhibitions

Culture Guides

Rebecca Watson author photo
Literature Events in Manchester and the North

In between working out, then working through, your holiday reading pile this summer, find inspiration for your next bookish acquisitions from our selection of live events and exhibitions.