Ellen Ramsey
Contemporary Tapestry

The Hundertwasser Tapestries: Part 2

My last post was Part 1 of my article about the Hundertwasser Tapestries. If you have not read that post yet, please go back and read the background story before continuing on!

The Austrian weaver Fritz Riedel established a Gobelin style tapestry studio in Mexico in 1968.* The studio wove commissions of many artists’ work including over 35 Hundertwasser tapestries. The Gobelinos Riedl weavings are much larger than Absalon’s interpretations. They are woven at a courser sett of about 8 or 9 epi, and the colors are much brighter today than in Hilde Absalon’s tapestries.  They are more true to the intense contrasting hues of the original paintings.

Gobelinos Riedl, Rafael Morquecho weaver, The Blob Grows in the Flower Pot, 1980, Tlaquepaque, Mexico, wool tapestry after the original 1974 painting by Friedensriech Hundertwasser, 4 epc, 265cm x 265cm. Private Collection. Photo: Museum Hundertwasser archive. © Namida AG, Glarus, Switzerland.

My photo. You can see how hard it was to photograph these big works!

Like all the tapestries, there is a great deal of freedom and variation in the colors and how they interact that is unique to the language of weaving. At this truly huge scale, the trademark Hundertwasser style really comes alive. Distinctively, Gobelinos Reidl employed shape outlining in contrasting hues that add contrast and “pop” to the colors (in contrast to Absalon’s nuances). This technical trick creates work that is exceptionally true to the spirit and impression of Hundertwasser’s original work.

Gobelinos Riedl, Ramon Zendejas weaver, Hummus Scent, 1982, Tlaquepaque, Mexico, wool tapestry after the original 1979 painting by Friedensriech Hundertwasser, 4 epc, 253cm x 217cm. Private Collection. Photo: Museum Hundertwasser archive. © Namida AG, Glarus, Switzerland.

My photo of Hummus Scent in the Museum. It is unclear to me how much of the color differences are due to fading and how much is due to photo editing in the archival images. I suspect both are at play.

Gobelinos Riedl, Pedro Ibarra Hernandez and Theo Riedl weavers, Dasland Canal, 1984, Tlaquepaque, Mexico, wool tapestry after original 1969 painting by Friedensriech Hundertwasser, 4 epc, 215cm x 305cm. Private Collection. Photo: Museum Hundertwasser archive. © Namida AG, Glarus, Switzerland.

How Dasland Canal appears in the Museum

As a result of Hundertwasser’s insistence on free artistic interpretation by the weavers, these tapestries take his designs in exciting directions. His style benefits from the scale, movement, and softness of the medium. Friedensriech Hundertwasser was an eccentric guy who lived on a boat, traveled constantly, and preferred painting en plein air in the nude. (A video in the museum shows him rowing in his dinghy, nude, to and from his floating home, carrying small canvases.) Not much about the way he lived his daily life was conducive to traditional studio work, let alone monumental works. But as an artist who sought to immerse people into his aesthetic through architectural design, his affinity for tapestry makes perfect sense. To be inside the earthy, undulating interior of Museum Hundertwasser, and to be visually enveloped by these tapestries, feels like the truest experience of Hundertwasser’s colorful, wacky world.

View of one of Hundertwasser’s architectural plans in the gallery with the  Dasland Canal tapestry

  • *After Riedl retired from the atelier it was taken over by the Morquecho family, several of whom were weavers on Hundertwasser tapestries under Riedl. In fact the first Hundertwasser tapestry produced by the studio was woven by Rafael Morquecho and Fritz Reidl together. The studio eventually became Taller Gobelinos Mexicanos, which appears to have been active until very recently. Here is a link to an article about the studio: http://magazine.art21.org/2012/07/31/the-taller-mexicano-de-gobelinos-a-tapestry-workshop-in-guadalajara/#.Y46dAi-cZ0s.  If any readers know the current status of the workshop, please share!

Many thanks to Dr. Andrea Fürst, Archivist at the Museum Hundertwasser, for sharing the information and archival photos that form the basis of this article.

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