ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History / publications

Ludwig Otto Werder (1868-1902), and the early development of the school of design in St.Gall
a paper, given at the CIETA meeting of 1993 in Lyon, France, by Anne Wanner-JeanRichard

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  "Art Nouveau" and Textile Industry:
  When the designers had sold their designs to the manufacturers, they gave them away for good, it seems that in this early period they were going to be used for hand embroideries or for machine works. In machine embroidery an additional technical design was necessary. These designs are not very often preserved, because they were used up during work. Here, maybe, is also the place to explain that in St.Gall chemical lace was always embroidered on fabric. Technically speaking in St.Gall there was a production of machine embroidery and not of machine lace.

From August 1889 Werder was again working in his home town, in different factories and he seems to have earned quite good money, for the diary says: ...."a salary of frs 300 per month for a 22year old young man is quite something"....Unfortunately Werder's diary stops with the death of his mother in 1893. It is not known how he came to apply for a teacher's job in the school of design. From Nov. 1st 1896 he was engaged as a professor for the design of machine embroidery in St.Gall.

The years of 1896 and 1897 became very important for the development of art nouveau: The art dealer Samuel Bing had opened his Gallery called "Art Nouveau" in Paris, and his modern art objects awakened strong reactions, there was furious critisism and enthusiastic imitation.

In Geneva, the Swiss national exhibition was opened in 1896 and embroideries from St.Gall were criticized because of the persistence of traditional patterns. An unknown author wrote in a St.Gall newspaper that attempts to renew the style in machine embroidery would be important for the continuance of the whole business.

  Otto Alder, a respected manufacturer and a member of the museums commission for many years, was an opponent of the new ornament, and in a report of 1897 he got up about works in the style of "Grasset", which he characterised as fantastic formations without any rules and he found fault with the "irrefutable incorrectness of the design".

To follow the development of the school of design we now have to go back in time a little. Since January 1892 Emil Hansen, later called Nolde, from northern Germany had been teaching ornamental design in St.Gall. He had seen the advertisment for a teaching position in the art and craft museum in Berlin, and as a result of his sketch-books of historic ornaments, he was selected from among 34 candidates. During the first 3 years, until 1895 he concentrated fully on his teaching task. Then, in Munich, he met Georg Hirth, who edited the newspaper "die Jugend" in 1896 , and from the beginning Hansen designed Ornaments for this paper.

It would be very interesting to know exactly whether Hansen and Werder liked each other and whether they debated the new style. There are no documents to prove this, but it could have been possible: the two men were almost the same age and they were teaching for a year, from autumn 1896 to autumn 1897 in the same institution in St.Gall.


2 drawings by Werder, end of 19th c.


Pattern of Werder's pattern book, 1898

Detail of page of Werder's pattern book, 1901


Pattern of Werder's pattern book, 1898

embroidered curtain


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content Last revised 5 August, 2004