Date of this Version
Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, (2004).
Historically, European tapestry making involved collaboration among artists, designers, draftsmen, cartoon makers, spinners, dyers, weavers, patrons, dealers, and other professionals. This specialized system of labor continued in modified form into the twentieth century in certain European weaving studios. This paper explores the negotiations involved and results achieved in the design, creation, and marketing of a group of twentieth century tapestries, in which painted imagery was translated into the handwoven textile medium.
A case study based on the Gloria F. Ross Archive of unpublished letters, contracts, sketches, invoices, photographs, and other materials is presented. Serving as editeur (analogous to a film “producer”), the late Gloria Frankenthaler Ross worked with thirty American and European artists and orchestrated over one hundred tapestry designs from 1965 to 1996. Weavers in New York, the Navajo Nation, Scotland, France, and China, contributed to approximately 450 tapestries, woven as single panels or in editions of five to seven.
An examination of the roles of the artists, weavers, and editeurs in tapestry-making leads to a discussion of authorship, authority, and authenticity. Specific issues include the varied contexts in which artists create or approve designs for the tapestry medium; how an editeur negotiates with artists and weavers and between artist’s designs and woven products; the naming of works and acknowledgment of participants; gallery and museum representation of the work; and collectors’ rationales for acquiring and displaying the work. In such discussion, the shifting relationships between collaboration and appropriation can be explored.