Lurcat’s Tapestry Revival, part two
Welcome back, if would like to read part one, click here...
Western European tapestry history spans the foundation of the Gobilens manufactory in 1662 to the beginning of the third republic of France in 1871. During this period the condescension to painting is observed as being the dominant characteristic of tapestry. The commission by Pope Leo X in the early 16 century of The Acts of the Apostles by Raphel (to be woven in the Brussles’ workshops) is thought be the turning point whereby tapestry was to henceforth be fashioned after designs supplied by painters.
An important point of note is that tapestry’s relationship to painting did not begin at the onset of the Renaissance, but in Belgium in 1476, when tapestry weavers worked from paintings which were deliberately created with the intent to guide weavers using traditional techniques. Ironically, at this time painters ostracized weavers for creating their own cartoons, which was opposite during the Renaissance.
The 1500’s, also saw painters using paint on tapestries and later, specialized glazers (with ink, wild-grain colour, or chalk) were commissioned to touch up and create defined lines around the shapes on the surface of woven tapestry. The need for this integration of painting on tapestry has been observed as being the result of poor tapestry cartoons – yet another reason to address the changes in the tapestry world.
Jean Lurcat began as a painter and later a tapestry weaver in 1915 when he was 23 years of age. He became intrigued by tapestry weaving when he learned of its history and was especially influenced by the tapestries of Apocalypse of Angiers (14 century) which he viewed in 1937. He came away from this experience more sure that scale, emotional content and reduction of means, or ‘scale of pre-arranged color’ were of ultimate importance to tapestry design. Lurcat was already practicing these values and was pleased to see them validated by such an illustrious and historically powerful piece. Consequently, his convictions about how tapestry should be viewed, regarded, and most of all, designed, became stronger. The opening statement of Lurcat’s book, Designing Tapestry, distinguishes tapestry and easel paintings by their location: tapestry being custom made for a specific sites with large walls. He later refers to tapestry as a medium whose most authentic form is: 1) embedded with content; 2) is invariably large scale; 3) is designed with a scale of pre-arranged colors and; 4) is designed for, and thought of as being forever connected to, architecture; The artist asserts: “I want to remind you that Tapestry knew its proudest moments in a time when a style of extremely grandiose architecture reigned supreme”.
This post is part two of a three-part essay. Click here for part one and check back next week for part three. When this series is done I will offer it as one downloadable essay with citations and footnotes!
Janna Maria Vallee