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 4 of 5
back - next
  Influence of Japan. Technique and Design
  In St.Gallen a very important influence was the influence of Japanese decorative art. It could have come through magazines, but in the Museum collection some drawn and cut threadwork from Japan shows a greater influence. This work was sent to St. Gallen in 1904 by Consul Ritter, a diplomatic representative in Tokio.

Some of these examples clearly show that the St.Gallen needlework classes were very interested in the technique: for instance, a Japanese silk embroidery was copied, the only difference being that the Swiss embroiderers used linen material. I will compare some of these Japanese embroideries with details of samplers. These Samplers were worked in the needlework classes and became part oft the training.

The piece which I am showing here came to the museum together with a diploma dated 1922, and it must have been executed one or two years before that. An identical example was worked by a student who got her diploma in 1928, and Anna Schelling's last student before her retirement, who finished her training in Spring 1935, did very similar needlework. It becomes even more obvious, that the technique was used since maybe 1910 up to the 1930s.

The samplers range from a very simple pattern to most elaborate ones. In every piece we find the pulled threadwork similar to Italian Renaissancework or to the technique of eastern Asia.

There was a question in St.Gallen whether students should be talented in techniques and in design. In the annual report of 1902, p. 51, it says: "we feel that technically perfect work has its own value even when it is done according to another person's design. The extraordinary skill in fine whitework that traditionally exists in eastern Switzerland does not have to be united with an equal artistic talent".
But still the professors in St.Gallen felt that there should be more education in design. Since 1915

  former students of the drawing and painting classes had been giving special courses to the needlework students. One could get a diploma in the making, modification and completion of designs for embroidery.

As far as we know, Anna Schelling did not travel or visit foreign exhibitions. If she was influenced by foreign works of embroidery, it happened by way of the books, patterns and magazines which one could find in the textile library. At the time of the first world war, tulle-embroidery came into fashion and one can feel the influence of Vienna in St.Gallen. Maybe Dagobert Peche's (1887-1923) works were responsible for such an influence. From 1917-1919 he was the Director of the newly-founded branch of the Wiener Werkstätte in Zürich.

So Anna Schelling's main talent seems to have been that of teaching her students in a technical respect.

Her classes were well attended. Besides the diploma students, there were so-called "auditors" and also ladies classes. On Thursday mornings, for instance, former students and other ladies brushed up what they had learned years ago and they also discussed topics with like-minded colleagues.

This year's exhibition in St.Gallen aims to give an idea of what was worked in the artistic embroidery classes. The town's Institut was well known for its machine embroidery designers, but as we have seen, the needlework classes made an equal contribution to the popularity and development of the College. We do not know of famous textile artists who studied here, but the technical skill that the students learned served to form a basis and a feeling for good quality textiles with which the homes of many families were improved and embellished.


    "Dilettante" Anna Needlework Technique Literature  

content Last revised 15 August, 2004