Painting on Velvet

Velvet Painting  

Who among us hasn’t viewed a portrait of Elvis Presley beautifully rendered on black velvet and shed a tear at the beauty of it all? Oh, it’s just us then? While some (Ok, most) people might label velvet paintings as kitschy, and in the case of the doll portrait shown below, creepy, velvet painting has a long and storied history.

It is believed that velvet paintings got their start in Kashmir, the place where velvet was first woven, and were usually religious in nature. While today velvet painting is seen as kitschy, at that point in time it was reserved for important subjects and viewed as important and prestigious. It is also believed that none other than Marco Polo brought black velvet paintings to Western Europe where they were considered so wonderful and lovely, some ended up in the Vatican Museums.

Velvet painting also has history in Japan. The Victoria and Albert Museum has in its collections a 19th-century velvet painting of a tiger. During that same time period proper English and American ladies would paint delicate flowers on velvet.

Given such a respectable background, when did velvet painting become all about Day-Glo and Elvis? Well, in the 1970s a man named Doyle Harden founded a factory in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico that specialized in the iconic paintings. At his factory artists churned out thousands of fabulous paintings that soon took over 1970s America.

Today, if you’re a fan of this fuzzy art form you can visit the Veleteria Epicenter of Fighting Cultural Deprivation, a museum full of velvet artworks located in Los Angeles. 

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