Dobranyi & Hegyi Foundation
(former Ildiko Dobranyi Foundation)



The Web of Time


European Tapestry's Artistic Metamorphosis at the New Millennium

As a tapestry artist I wanted to understand why the evaluation of this "royal" genre is so problematic. What are the causes of the frequent instability of classification, changing of function and position during the history of the genre, which had long lasting influences. The question of the classification of the genre is debated nowadays thanks to the new critical theories in critics of modernism, canon and critical museum-studies. The art historical classification in the 19th century contributed to downgrading of the tapestry, because tapestry was not classified as mural genre but as a subcategory of applied arts on the basis of textile technique being used, which had come to regarded lower compared to canvas in the newly established hierarchy of genres. So tapestry was sent to museums of applied arts. However, even before the foundation of museums, the genre of tapestry could not fulfill the criteria of modernity because it was not able to separate itself from the ancient techniques of handicrafts. The aim of my dissertation is to enlighten the historical background of the negative evaluation of the genre; i.e. to enlighten the causes of it's falling to victim and its connection to modernity. I wanted to put into historical context the changing of the function, position and language of the genre and to distinguish the way of autonomous tapestry art from the traditional way of tapestry art that needs a weaver. Another goal of my dissertation is to summarize and interpret the process resulted in the metamorphosis of tapestry. This process began in the middle of the 19-th century with the Arts and Crafts Movement and reached its heyday around the new Millennium. The introduced process serves as a background to my activity, as I was and still I am active agent of the newly reborn autonomous tapestry art.  


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Thesis I.

General public opinion of the traditionally European woven tapestry art is problematic in spite of the fact that this genre was reborn at the turn of the New Millennium. My observation is that the main cause of this uncertainty lies in modernity as the genre slipped into a disadvantaged position in several ways:
- It could not integrate itself into "modern" arts that were becoming intellectual activities, because it could not leave behind its slow and ancient handcraft technique, which is against speeding modern time-philosophy.
- The process of making tapestry that is the shared work between designers, carton drawers and weavers meant a difficulty in development.
- Despite its "fine art" identity, the genre was regarded as applied art based on its materials and was "condemned" to the category of Applied Arts.
- Due to its traditions, it was tied to the representational aesthetic needs of the European feudal courts. During the French Revolution, J.P. Marat deemed it useless and unneeded. The background of Marat's pronouncement, which has effects even to the present day, was described in Martin Warnke's book "The Court Artist." This implies that the bourgeois society could not forgive neither the former governing society nor the art itself for fulfilling its greater role in the former royal courts.
However Warnke draws the attention to the fact that royal courts formed the system of artists' training: the academies. The academies approached art as a part of higher knowledge. The recognition of the intellectual nature of art is based on this philosophy, which also means that during the concept and form based appreciation of art, the concept, the intellectual idea has priority compared to handcraft, which is the physical part of art making.

Thesis II.

The appearance and development of autonomous tapestry art that requires the skill of weaving showed up in the 19th century – as an effect of Arts and Crafts movement – denies the fore mentioned concept.
- In my opinion the metamorphoses of the autonomous tapestry art can only be created by the interaction of concept and craft, the intellectual and physical part of art tapestry making – which means the interaction of the idea and the "expressive language" of tapestry, the weaving – and not least by the result of the connected research and shared experiences of artists.
- The theoretical basis to examine the metamorphoses of tapestry art is the concept, how art is "functioning" explained in the book of George Kubler The Shape of Time. The emphasis of this concept is on the joint efforts of artists, generations of artists, not on individual performance. Even though Kubler's idea was applied to serial art works, it provides a very good tool for examining aspects of tapestry art as well.

Thesis III.

Tapestry art – deemed to be an applied art in the 19th century – changed in function and position in the 20th century:
- It served as the prototype for mass production in the Bauhaus.
- During the Lausanne experiments, it left its traditional techniques and moved into three dimensional space, becoming a new art genre as "tapestry-hybrid" or "spatial-textile."

Thesis IV.

By the third millennium, traditional tapestry art returned to the state of contemporary art. In this process, the network of generations of autonomous Hungarian tapestry artists played also a significant role. It is with this group that I surely identify myself as a tapestry artist.



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Ibolya Hegyi DLA Document


Ibolya Hegyi DLA document


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