House style

A new ex­hi­bi­tion cel­e­brates Anni Al­bers, Bauhaus alum­nus and game-chang­ing tex­tile de­signer

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents - Jes­sica Doyle

The tex­tile de­signs of Anni Al­bers

FEW TEX­TILE DE­SIGN­ERS have had as much im­pact as Ger­man artist Anni Al­bers, the sub­ject of a ma­jor ret­ro­spec­tive just opened at Tate Mod­ern. Yet Al­bers came to her medium by cir­cum­stance, or per­haps ne­ces­sity: as a fe­male stu­dent at the Bauhaus school from 1922, she was ex­cluded from paint­ing and ar­chi­tec­ture, so took up weav­ing (one of the few op­tions open to women) in­stead and turned it into a form of mod­ern art.

Where much fur­ni­ture of the time was con­cerned with clean lines and a neu­tral pal­ette, Al­bers’ de­signs were full of colour and graphic pat­terns, partly in­spired by her trav­els through Mex­ico and South Amer­ica af­ter she moved to the US in the 1930s. This has proved to be her legacy; al­most a cen­tury af­ter she first started weav­ing, her work still looks fresh and con­tin­ues to in­flu­ence de­sign­ers to­day.

Rug and fab­ric de­signer Christo­pher Farr has an on­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Josef and Anni Al­bers Foun­da­tion, and con­sid­ers Al­bers to be within ‘the premier ranks of cel­e­brated mod­ernists’. His com­pany has just re­leased two fab­rics drawn from Al­bers’ de­signs: Tem­ple, de­vel­oped from pan­els she de­signed in the 1950s for the Jewish Tem­ple Emanu-el in Dal­las; and Orches­tra, in­spired by the shapes of mu­si­cal in­stru­ments at the Ber­lin Opera, which she vis­ited as a child.

The colour­ways are just mid-cen­tury enough with­out look­ing retro.

Sim­i­larly, tex­tile de­signer Eleanor Pritchard, win­ner of the Heal’s In­no­va­tion Award last month, calls Al­bers a ‘fem­i­nist role model’. ‘As a stu­dent, I was in­spired by the con­fi­dence and graphic clar­ity in her weave, qual­i­ties that I try to achieve in my own work,’ she adds. Pritchard’s new Dove­tail blan­ket and cush­ion, with a geo­met­ric pat­tern of in­ter­lock­ing squares and rec­tan­gles in­spired by the joints used in cab­i­net­mak­ing, have been pro­duced in a spe­cial navy, grey and black colour­way, avail­able ex­clu­sively from the Tate shop. tate.org.uk

Far right Al­bers’ Tem­ple, in an as­sort­ment of colour­ways

Main im­age Anni Al­bers in her Black Moun­tain Col­lege stu­dio, North Carolina, 1937.

Above Eleanor Pritchard’s Dove­tail blan­ket in Gran­ite.

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