Monday, 13 December 2010

Tapestry Design by Albin Muller

Illustration: Albin Muller. Tapestry design, c1910.

The German architect and designer Albin Muller produced a number of textile based design and craft items throughout his early career including printed and woven textiles, carpet and rugs, embroidery and tapestry. Although Muller produced a wide range of products outside of textiles including ceramics, metalwork and furniture, the tapestry design illustrated in this article and reproduced in a 1910 edition of the influential German magazine Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration is an interesting example of some of Muller's more craft based textile output.

The tapestry was produced while Muller was living in the artists colony at Darmstadt and was intended to reflect both the colony and the contemporary work of the designer. Muller was also teaching both decorative and applied art at the time and perhaps this particular influence should be taken into account when considering this tapestry. The period before the First World War saw Muller's work often appearing to be self-regulated, complying to some extent towards the rationalisation of form that was becoming so much a part of the decorative arts in Germany during the first few years of the twentieth century. However, Muller's textile work in particular shows a penchant for detailed pattern work. Although this was often more controlled in some of the woven fabrics that were intended for mass production, his rug and tapestry work, by its nature often craft related, was perhaps more open to embellishment and a looser approach to surface pattern.

The tapestry design itself is relatively complex and certainly highly decorative for the period, with a great deal of pattern work and detailed surface work, which appears almost ornamental in its decoration. Although the tapestry does stand on its own as a piece of artistic and craft work, it can also be twinned with some of the wall decoration work that Muller was producing at Darmstadt during the same period. The second illustration shown in this article was also reproduced within the same article in the Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration
magazine and clearly shows a significant relationship between the two disciplines and a close compositional association between the two pieces of work.

Illustration: Albin Muller. Decorated wall of a Museic Hall, c1910.

The second illustration is in fact an interior wall decoration of a drawing project for a proposed music hall. According to Muller, the walls were to be gold coloured while the apse in the centre was to have been decorated with a mosaic. There is a definite similarity, at least as far as pattern work and general decoration are concerned, but there is also a strong relationship between the styles of the two pieces. Perhaps most compelling is the obvious association between the compositional framework of the decorated wall and tapestry. 

It would be interesting to know whether Muller's decorative plans for the music hall and the tapestry itself were ever meant to have been physically linked. Perhaps the tapestry, and others like it, would have been part of the overall effect of the music hall, bringing in and reflecting out details that could be found throughout the interior of the proposed building. However, it could well have been a case of interesting developments in the creative journey that Muller found could be reflected within different disciplines and crafts, rather than as a studied and controlled project.

What it does show is the often complex relationship that designers have between surface pattern and their own contemporary design and decoration ethics. Although formulas were continually being worked out in Germany and elsewhere in Europe for the rationalisation of the form of design, surface pattern was often either dismissed altogether or treated as either part of the formula of rationalisation, or hovered somewhere in between. In fact, surface pattern has never really been consistently part of any true formula or manifesto and has often been treated as being part of an individual expression, or at least of individual guidance. This in some respects has allowed each designer to independently arrive at a harmonious compromise between what has often been seen by some as a balance between the rational and the irrational, but by others as an equally complex compromise between the rational and the creative.

Pattern is both a reflection of the human need to embellish and decorate, but also more importantly perhaps, the need of the individual to express an element of creativity that is uniquely theirs.

Reference links:
Hesse: Darmstadt Artists' Colony, Rothaarsteig, Wartberg Culture, Hessian, Fischbach, University of Marburg, Rheingau, Bergstra├če, Atlantis
Modern Style: Jugendstil/Art Nouveau 1899-1905
Art Nouveau: Utopia: Reconciling the Irreconcilable (Taschen's 25th Anniversary Special Editions Series)
Art Nouveau
422 Art Nouveau Designs and Motifs in Full Color (Dover Pictorial Archive Series)
Art Nouveau Designs (Design Source Books)
Treasury of Art Nouveau Design & Ornament (Dover Pictorial Archive Series)
Art Nouveau 1890-1914
305 Authentic Art Nouveau Jewelry Designs
Art Nouveau Floral Patterns and Stencil Designs in Full Color (Dover Pictorial Archive Series)
Art Nouveau Decorative Ironwork
The Art Nouveau Style

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