Weaving Modernism Postwar Tapestry Between Paris and New York K. L. H. Wells

Publication date:
19 Mar 2019
Yale University Press
280 pages: 254 x 178mm
59 color + 45 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

An unprecedented study that reveals tapestry’s role as a modernist medium and a model for the movement’s discourse on both sides of the Atlantic in the decades following World War II

With a revelatory analysis of how the postwar French tapestry revival provided a medium for modern art and a model for its discourse and marketing on both sides of the Atlantic, Weaving Modernism presents a fascinating reexamination of modernism’s relationship to decoration, reproducibility, and politics. Tapestry offered artists a historically grounded medium for distributing and marketing their work, helped expand the visibility and significance of abstraction at midcentury, and facilitated modernism’s entry into the dominant paradigm of the postwar period. K. L. H. Wells situates tapestry as part of a broader “marketplace modernism” in which artists participated, conjuring a lived experience of visual culture in corporate lobbies, churches, and even airplanes, as well as in galleries and private homes. This extensively researched study features previously unpublished illustrations and little-known works by such major artists as Helen Frankenthaler, Henri Matisse, Robert Motherwell, Pablo Picasso, and Frank Stella.

K. L. H. Wells is assistant professor of art history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“Wells invites the reader to see tapestry as an integral, even defining part of postwar art and brings new attention to a fascinating but often overlooked art form.”—Lorraine Karafel, Journal of Design History

“Deeply archival and amply illustrated, the book brings to light a wealth of tapestry projects, many of them little known . . . Most important, though, the study offers a powerful new approach to well-worn debates about the relationship of art and decoration.”—Emily Warner, West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture

[An] excellent text [. . .] and a range of images that amplify the author's points and are in many cases not often illustrated elsewhere —Mary Shoeser, Selvedge

“[A]n insightful and well-researched addition to the literature on Modernist tapestry production...No longer a backdrop to the more prominent debates on Modernist painting, such studies are beginning to bring the medium of tapestry to the fore.”—Ann Coxon, The Burlington Magazine

Winner of the 2020 SECAC Award for Excellence in Scholarly Research and Publication

“In her excellent and well-researched analysis of postwar tapestry, Wells challenges our understandings of both modernism and the decorative arts, contributing a new and much needed picture of modernism’s complex relationship with textiles.”—Elissa Auther, Museum of Arts and Design and the Bard Graduate Center

“Weaving Modernism is a masterful, broad-ranging study on the history of modern tapestry, making clear its importance to the overall history of modern art through fascinating archival research.”—Bibiana Obler, author of Intimate Collaborations: Kandinsky and Münter, Arp and Taeuber