Tradition and Innovation in Modern Tapestries

By Johnson, Mark M. | Arts & Activities, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Tradition and Innovation in Modern Tapestries


Johnson, Mark M., Arts & Activities


A current exhibition touring the country presents major works--even colossal in scale--by some of the best known and most talented masters of 20th-century art. But rather than featuring paintings or sculptures or prints, this exhibition focuses on handmade tapestries.

Tapestries: The Great Twentieth Century Modernists features artworks by Picasso, Matisse, Calder, Kandinsky, and many of their contemporaries, who were inspired to transform their own compositions into monumental wall hangings. The 20 tapestries brought together by the Trust for Museum Exhibitions from both European and American collections offer a fresh perspective on 20th-century Cubism and its intriguing relationship to the time-honored tradition of weaving. The exhibition also presents an innovative approach to the centuries-old medium of textile art.

"Tapestry" refers to a weaving technique characterized by handwoven textiles traditionally used for hangings, curtains and upholstery. In French, the phrase, "tapisser les murs," literally means to cover the walls with textiles. Interestingly, tapestries are simultaneously among the most ancient and most modern of art forms.

Most people are familiar with traditional European tapestries from the Middle Ages that adorned the massive stone walls of castles and palaces. That tradition continued into the 19th century as patrons commissioned such wall hangings for both decoration and insulation purposes. The modern variants of wall hangings are less functional and primarily concerned with aesthetics.

Unlike painting, creating art on a loom requires a very different conceptual approach and an extraordinary amount of teamwork. It's a labor-intensive process that could take a skilled weaver a month or more to create a square yard of finished fabric using special wools and dyes.

The interplay between the artists and weavers, and the interplay among the Cubist masters, offer us unique insights into the tradition of tapestry and its surprising impact on 20th-century Cubism. Artists, such as those presented in this display, were well aware of contemporary artistic trends, styles and techniques, and often responded to such influences in their own works. The same type of interchange also exists in the medium of tapestries.

The exhibition curator, Dirk Holger, a weaver as well as a tapestry expert, once worked with Jean Lurcat (1892-1966), a French painter and an important tapestry designer, who is credited with reviving the art of tapestry in modern France. Because of Lurcat's revival, many 20th-century painters, sculptors and, at least one architect, were inspired to turn to tapestry.

In the 1950s, Pablo Picasso asked Jean Lurcat why he wove his pictures in wool. Lurcat, the leading revivalist of tapestry among his contemporaries, replied easily, "One fiber of my wool is a thousand times more precious than a piece of your paper." That playful challenge inspired Picasso to transform some of his own compositions into monumental wall hangings, and he was not alone in that exploration.

Pablo Picasso was an extraordinarily inventive and experimental artist, so it was almost expected that he would investigate the possibilities of tapestries for his compositions. After all, he tried just about every other imaginable medium and technique, and he even invented some of his own.

His tapestry, Les Arlequins (The Harlequins,) was based on a gouache originally created in 1920 and woven into a tapestry in 1954. The Cubist style and the harlequin subject are reminiscent of some of Picasso's early groundbreaking artworks that transformed his own career and significantly impacted the history of Modern Art. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Tradition and Innovation in Modern Tapestries
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.