Design Centre Stories

Behind the Faces

The reopening of London’s National Portrait Gallery has been one of the year’s cultural highlights; but look past the famous faces and you’ll see that textile-weaver Gainsborough (available at George Spencer Designs) plays a star supporting role. Its Suffolk mill created all of the wool-upholstered walls in the galleries, which are colour-themed, each one bespoke, to complement the age and theme of the portraits.

Gainsborough worked with Nissen Richards Studio. who were in charge of the gallery interpretation, alongside the NPG’s own team, to come up with the colour themes for the spaces. The wool walls are plain fabrics, rather than the fussier damask that they replaced, and when the rooms are seen together they create a vivid sequence of colour – not just beautiful but a useful wayfinding aide. so that visitors can sense the change of one era’s art to another as they travel through.

The development process was painstaking, with Nissen Richards Studio taking the time to set the paintings against coloured backgrounds to work out which would be most suitable; Gainsborugh then replicated the exact shades through a bespoke dying process, before the wool was woven in its Sudbury mill.

George Spencer Designs, Third Floor, Design Centre East