ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  publications

Art hand embroidery in St.Gallen
a paper, given at the CIETA meeting of 1995 in Lyon, France, by Anne Wanner-JeanRichard

page 1 of 5
  "Dilettante Classes" and Helene Weidenmüller
  In my last contribution here 2 years ago I spoke about the former Trade and Industry Museum in St.Gallen and its graphic training as being an important basis for machine embroidery designers around 1900. As there was no academy in this small town of eastern Switzerland, drawing, painting and design were taught in an art college which had been established in 1867.

On the occasion of the expansion of this Institute in 1883, the customary courses in pattern drawing were supplemented by so-called dilettante classes. The idea was to create a "seat of learning for feminine work" in St.Gallen. The students of these needlework classes did not pursue a specific career and attended the classes to further their education rather than with a view to gainful employment. Dilettantism only acquired the pejorative undertone of amateurishness and lack of professionalism at a later date.

The merits of teachers in the above mentioned Institute are all well documented. Only little is known today about their female colleagues who made an equal contribution to the popularity and development of the college. Therefore I tried to do some research about the textile education of women in St.Gallen. First I shall present three of the ladies who taught in the classes:

Helene Weidenmüller (1850-1938) from Kassel, Germany had studied drawing and painting at the Academies of Kassel and Berlin. In 1883 she arrived in St.Gallen, and there she taught

  drawing, painting and needlework. The annual reports of the School and the Museum tell us that during her stay in Switzerland, she travelled to Vienna and Salzburg to study and to copy old samplers.

In all the fields of the arts at this time a revival of old styles can be noted and this interest is characteristic of the tradition of historism. The annual reports also show, that there were specific reasons for Weidenmüllers studies. She was supposed to develop a collaboration between hand embroidery and machine work. The machine was to execute the monotonous and recurrent motifs. The hand would then add the more complicated design. So the teacher was interested in the ever repeating surface pattern. From Vienna she brought a linen sampler with a red pattern back to St.Gallen and it seems that it inspired her students to create a whole series of samplers with surface pattern. Some of them are preserved in the Museum collection. Today one is fascinated by the rich variety of these ornaments.

At the end of 1891 Helene Weidemmüller left St.Gallen and returned to Germany. At that time Friedrich Fischbach from Hanau, Germany was no longer Director of the college of art. He had been in St.Gallen from 1883-1888. So, after a period with foreign teachers there followed some years with teachers of the home town. The Director of the school and museum from 1888-1923 was the Swiss, Emil Wild. He had been the architect of the building which was finished in 1886.


    "Dilettante" Anna Needlework Technique Literature  

home content Last revised 15 August, 2004