Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A Tapestry Design by Max Seliger

Illustration: Max Seliger. Tapestry cartoon, c1899.

The German artist, designer and decorator Max Seliger produced this cartoon for a tapestry design at the very end of the nineteenth century. Seliger was well versed in a number of disciplines which included fine art painting, illustration and graphics. However, it is his work with stained glass and mosaic that was particularly admired at the time and came to influence a number of other disciplines in which he worked at least partially and intermittently, such as textiles.

It can easily be seen with this tapestry design how Seliger has incorporated a fairly large element of compositional work that would have been deemed standard for both stained glass and mosaic work. The tapestry is split into a number of panels, both horizontally and vertically motivated. Not necessarily seen as standard fair for a tapestry, though not altogether unknown, Seliger's tapestry design is both self contained and well spaced, incorporating a full five panels in one composition.

Interestingly the two horizontal panels at the extreme top and bottom of the design seem to lend themselves more to the mosaic sensibility than the three main vertical panels which, although set up in the style of standard tapestry decoration, do seem to have more than a passing connection with stained glass composition. This is by no means a fluke or accident on Seligers part. Rather than hide his obvious strengths within certain disciplines, he obviously decided to use those same strengths to produce a piece of work in a discipline that was not within his standard fair.

This is an interesting example as it goes some way towards showing that cross-discipline artists and designers do often take ideas and sometimes even whole sections of working methods into other disciplines. In some regards this is a healthy and invigorating process whereby disciplines can benefit from an influx of ideas and models that do not necessarily fit in with the perceived expectation. Although some artists and designers may well struggle outside of their familiar background of materials and mediums, and some work clearly does not succeed, on the whole it can only be seen as a good and positive experience, bringing new angles and suggestions into disciplines.

For some time, and during the period in which this tapestry cartoon was produced, Seliger taught the fairly broad subject of applied arts in Berlin. The term applied arts can include a wide spectrum of design ranging from industrial, through interior, to craft and can include the decorative arts. It is this broad aspect of disciplines that was much more common in the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century than perhaps today. It allowed for an element at least of multi-disciplinary individuals who were comfortable sometimes within a range of disciplines that we would conceive today as having little if anything of a common heritage. However, by not concentrating solely on, and in some ways being contained within one discipline, a certain amount of flexibility and cross-discipline factors often became evident. This is often missing today with our penchant for one discipline study and the reluctance of many school, college and online school courses to allow a full cross-discipline experience.

Some may say that many artists, designers and crafts people spread themselves far too thinly, resulting in all their work across a number of disciplines suffering. Although this may well be true for some individuals, on the whole it seemed a more interesting, unpredictable and inevitably successful and stimulating creative journey for both artist and public alike.

Reference links:
Modern Style: Jugendstil/Art Nouveau 1899-1905
Art nouveau in Munich: Masters of Jugendstil from the Stadtmuseum, Munich, and other public and private collections
Jugendstil Mobel (German Text) (German Edition)
Paul Möbius - Jugendstil in Leipzig
Jugendstil; Art Nouveau
Jugendstil & Werkkunst
Symbolismus und Jugendstil: Krisenbewusstsein, Verfeinerung sinnl. Handelns u. d. Erneuerung d. Lebens in Schonheit (Bildkunst des 20. Jahrhunderts) (German Edition)
Glass, 1905-1925: From Art Nouveau to Art Deco : Bronzite Decoration/Glas 1905-1925 : Vom Jugendstil Zum Art Deco (Glass 1905-1925)
Jugendstil in Dresden
Authentic Art Nouveau Stained Glass Designs in Full Color (Dover Pictorial Archive Series)
Masterpieces of Art Nouveau Stained Glass Design: 91 Motifs in Full Color (Dover Pictorial Archive Series)

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