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