Friday, 21 January 2011

Rug Design by Otto Gussmann

Illustration: Otto Gussmann. Rug design, c1909.

The German artist, decorator and designer Otto Gussmann spent his career within the world of education. However, this did not stop him from producing work in a wide range of decorative subjects ranging from fine art, to mural painting and stained glass. He also produced a significant amount of work particularly in textiles where he created printed textiles, rugs, tapestries, embroidery and wallpaper. His style ranged from representational to geometrical pattern work though throughout most of the design work is treated with a certain element of modernist abstraction. Much of his textile-based pieces are often significantly floral based, whether representational or abstracted, and floral motifs usually made up a large proportion of his pattern work.

This rug design produced by Gussmann in about 1909 is contemporary with a period when he was producing relatively large scale ecclesiastically inspired painted mural and stained glass commissions and perhaps in some ways at least this helps to explain some of the compositional framework of this particular rug. The rug design is a carpet of loosely positioned and highly stylised flowers surrounded by a patterned border. Incorporated into the design are five medallions, the largest being a central elliptical piece that is relatively minimal in decoration. This is then surrounded by four smaller circular medallions that are much more complex in their pattern work. Depending on your viewpoint, the medallions are either laid underneath the floral motifs, on top of, or a combination of both. In some respects, the carpet could be seen as using a combination of Gussmann's mural and stained glass techniques with the medallions representing the glass and the floral pattern work the mural background. 

Although only a surmise, it is often easy for a designer to incorporate or crossover while working within more than one discipline or medium. Producing work in a range of different formats and techniques at the same time can often open up and indeed offer potential creative journeys that would not have been possible otherwise. Some may not feel that this scenario fits Gussmann's rug design; however, it is worthwhile considering and exploring what actually goes in to the working style of an artist or designer during a specific period. It would be interesting to consider what formats and disciplines that artist was working in during the making of a specific piece or during a section of their career. External forces are always an important consideration when regarding a general style or that of an individual and whether they be social, political or creative, all are valid and significant.

The rug itself has a contemporary and therefore clever twist on the traditions of Islamic carpet and rug design. This aspect of carpet decoration has a long history within the Islamic decorative arts, but has also fundamentally influenced the structure and compositional pattern work of much of the European additions to the craft and still does so today. By incorporating some of the more recent aspects of European decorative arts along with the traditions of carpet and rug design, Gussmann was able to balance both traditional and contemporary in a pleasing format that was able to harmonize the two without misleading or alienating either. 

Interestingly there was a whole range of artists and designers contemporary with Gussmann such as the likes of Otto Eckmann, Paul Horty, Margarete Weisemann, Bruno Paul and others who were producing what seem to be relatively conventional traditional rug compositions, though with a contemporary twist. Many incorporated contemporary European decorative elements and pattern techniques on a sliding scale, with some more based on tradition than others. Many of these carpet and rug designs will be seen on The Textile Blog in the coming weeks as they are worth exploring because of their interesting and sometimes startling use of traditional and contemporary.

Reference links:
German Applied Art Exhibition Dresden, Art Poster by Otto Gussmann
Otto Gussmann, 1869-1926: Galerie Rahnitzgasse Dresden, 14. Marz bis 19. April 1992 [und] Stadtische Galerie Albstadt, 3. Mai bis 28. Juni 1992 (Veroffentlichungen ... Galerie Albstadt) (German Edition)
German Expressionism: Die Brucke and Der Blaue Reiter
Jugendstil Art Nouveau
Modern Style: Jugendstil/Art Nouveau 1899-1905
Art Nouveau - Jugendstil
JUGENDSTIL ART NOUVEAU. Floral and Functional Forms
Art Nouveau Windows in N.Germn (German Edition)
Art Nouveau Windows in E.Germn (German Edition)

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