Born in Prague to Jewish parents on 6 April 1903 as Hilde Pilke, she changed her first name to Jacqueline when she married Jacques Groag.
She studied textile design in Vienna and flowered under the tutelage of Franz Cizek who then recommended her to Joseph Hoffmann, Head of the Werkstätte and she became one of his students. By 1930 she was already designing textiles for couturiers such as Chanel, Worth and Schiaparelli. Following a first prize for a poster design for the Salzburg Festival in the 1920s Groag won an award for a lace design at the Paris Exposition Coloniale Internationale (1931), a gold medal at the 1933 Milan Trienniale and another gold medal for textiles at the 1937 Paris Expo.
She married the modernist architect Jacques Groag in 1939 but with the rising Nazi threat the couple had to leave Vienna. They moved to Britain and Jacqueline soon found work. Her playful designs with strong lines and vivid colours proved to be a welcome change from the stereotyped floral patterns current at the time.
Shortly after their arrival the Groags established a lifelong friendship with Sir Gordon Russell, Master of the RDI Faculty (1947-49). When Jacques died in 1962, Russell took the chair for a private lecture on his life and work given by another émigré architect, Stefan Buzas RDI, held at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) on 22nd Mary 1962. Buzas also wrote an appreciation of the life of Jacqueline Groag for the RSA Journal, following her death in 1986.
By 1955 Jacqueline was established as a designer for the British textile industry. Her client list is long and varied and ranges from British Rail to Associated American Artists. As well as for David Whitehead & Sons, Groag designed textiles for future RDIs Sir Misha Black at the Design Research Unit and Alistair Morton at Edinburgh Weavers. Her designs were applied to wallpapers, to carpets for Bond-Worth, to interiors for the airline BOAC, greetings cards for Hallmark, for Johnson Matthey ceramic dinnerware and for plastic laminates. A number of her designs were featured in the Britain Can Make It exhibition and her influence was evident at the Festival of Britain 1951, where her designs were also exhibited.
When she was appointed a Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) in 1984 the RDI Master Dr William Brown reported that they had been trying to arrange for Jacqueline to join the Faculty for many years ‘but illness and other circumstances had served to make her election elusive until now’. He added that throughout her long and busy career the quality of her work had never faltered.
Jacqueline Groag died at the age of 82 on 13 January 1986.
Britain Can Make It Exhibition Catalogue 1946
- Group N: Furnishing Fabrics – items 12, 13
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To learn more about the work of Jacqueline Groag, her relationships with other designers, and further resources, visit the Exploring British Design prototype web portal.
Portraits: Women Designers – Jacqueline Groag
Geoffrey Rayner, Jacqueline Groag Textile & Pattern Design: Wiener Werkstatte to American Modern (Suffolk: Antique Collectors Club, 2009)
Original image reference: GB-1837-DES-DCA-30-1-POR-G-50-1. Design Council Archive, University of Brighton Design Archives.