Curtis Moffat: Experimental photography and design, 1923–1935
Curtis Moffat, 'Abstract Composition', about 1925. Museum no. E.880-2003 (click image for larger version)
Temporary display inroom 38a, 2 August 2007 - 13 April 2008.
Curtis Moffat created dynamic abstract photographs, innovative colour still-lives and some of the most glamorous society portraits of the early 20th century. He was also a pivotal figure in Modernist interior design.
Moffat was born in New York in 1887. He studied painting there and then in Paris, and in 1916 he married the English actress and poet Iris Tree, daughter of the actor Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree. While in Paris, Moffat collaborated with Man Ray, producing portraits and abstract 'photograms', or 'rayographs'.
Moving to London in the mid 1920s, Moffat opened an interior design company and gallery in Fitzroy Square. The company sold Modernist furniture by some of the best designers of the day, as well as African sculpture. It was here, throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, that Moffat also produced stylish photographic portraits of leading figures in high society and the arts. The enterprise closed in 1933, largely due to the Depression.
Moffat and his first wife divorced in 1932 and in 1936 he married Kathleen Allan. He returned to the US in 1939 and turned his attention again to painting until his death ten years later.
In 2003 and 2007 Penelope Smail, daughter of Curtis and Kathleen Moffat, generously gave his extensive archive to the V&A. The display in room 38a shows some of the highlights from the archive and also acts as a starting point to study Moffat's pioneering but hitherto little-known work in more depth.