Textiles at Stockholm Exhibition of 1930

The watercolor rendering of Gunnar Asplund’s Textile display building, Hall 26, captures the spirit of excitement about the Stockholm Exhibition itself and about the kinds of modern textiles that the exhibition’s organizers wanted to showcase. The building was clearly modernist: white and planar, with large windows.

An interior photograph of the building under construction show that the structure of the hall itself consists of a series of curved trusses, giving the rear corner of the building a rounded shape. When completed, the building let Sweden’s major textile artists show their wares, with rugs and carpets displayed on sliding racks and hung high on the walls in this large, high, almost-industrial space. Other domestic textiles were shown hung on walls and between the structural ribs of the trusses.

Textile Hall ofStockholm Exhibition of 1930, under construction. Gunnar Asplund, architect, built by AB Fribärande Träkonstruktioner. Digitaltmuseum image TEKA0148514, Photographer unknown.

In fact, the textiles shown in the Textile Hall, were not all “modernist.” Instead they represent the great range of what Sweden’s best designers and weavers were producing at the time. Some of these are identifiably art-deco in style, and others are marked by the darker murkier palette of the 1920s. Some designs seem somewhat banal; others are ambitious. We are lucky to have colored photo images of this exhibition (they are labeled in the archives as the first series in Sweden of colored photo images), but they are also tantalizing for not being quite close enough to the rugs for clear identification of many of them.

Interior of Textile Hall showing arrangement of handmade and machine made rugs and carpets, with structural ribs of building. Digitaltmuserm image ARKM.1990-106-081, Gustav W Cronquist, photographer.

A few of the names of contemporary weaving firms are evident on the racks of hanging flat weave rugs. It is possible from just the photo images to identify several firms which showed at this fair. The name of Thyra Grafstrom’s firm, where Elsa Gullberg was manager  in the late 1920s, is evident on the second row, as is part of the name of Johanna Brunsson’s Vävskola  the bottom left of the photo. The catalog of the exhibition (which I have seen only the cover of) would confirm the names of the textile participants. I list below weaving firms one might have expected to show here, based on their participation in the 1925 Paris exhibition and subsequent traveling shows to New York and Chicago, and a separate 1935 Swedish Textile exhibition in New York, for which I have catalogs. And judging from these other shows, each exhibitor might have showed as many as 50-60 rugs.

This is my list of possible/likely participants. When I find the catalog of the show, I will confirm which of these did in fact show here.

Axevalla -Varnhem Konstlöjd,
Polly Bjorkman Atelier, Kristianstad
Johanna Brunssons Vävskola, Stockholm
Handarbets Vänner (Friends of Handwork), Stockholm
Föreningen Könstfliten, Göteborg
Föreningen Svensk Hemslöjd, (Association of Swedish Handcrafts), Stockholm
Elsa Gullberg Textilier och Inredning, Stockholm
Väveri för Heminredning AB, Göteborg
Märta Måås Fjetterström, Bastad
AB Nordiska Kompaniet
AB Thyra Grafstrom’s Textilaffar, Stockholm.
and various county Craft Associations (Lans Hemslöjds) from around the country.

The Textile Building was in two parts, a section which  showcased church textiles, and church artifacts, “Kyrklig Konst.” As a contemporary photograph of that part of the building shows, one of the big windows has metal grillwork or some other kind of decoration which represents in eight rather abstract vignettes, scenes from the life of Christ. The central one is of Christ carrying his cross. One forgets what a culturally coherent society Sweden was at this point, in that not only would these images be familiar to all, but also considered not only not offensive, but entirely appropriate as a public way of signaling the religious material inside. The main textile hall is to the right of this entry building, only partly shown in the photograph below, but clearly evident in the featured image of this blog post, with large high windows and a ceiling which sloped to the rear of the hall.

Hall 23, Church Arts, with entry steps and decorative window treatment. Gunnar Asplund, archietct. Digitaltmuseum image ARKM.1976-107-0504, photographer unknown.

In fact, nearly all of the textile artists whom I am looking at in this blog, produced at least some, if not many, pieces of work for churches. Rugs for churches, altar cloths, vestments for the clergy: this was a very significant source of income for these weavers. Some firms like Liceum produced almost exclusively church-related woven materials.

Up the front steps and into the space designed for church textiles, was an area designating
upholstery textiles (möbel tyger), presumably for churches, and a cabinet below holding what appear to be small vessels, candlesticks and finials. Some of the rugs hanging here, on the walls and were probably designed for church use. However, the photo is labeled also as an area for Craft Associations (hemslöjden), so perhaps not all of the work here related to churches. In fact, (barely) visible on this balcony space, is a small hanging by Märta Måås Fjetterström, identifiable as her Tulip design.  Whether or not this had some association with church textiles, I don’t know. It would not have been part of a hemslojd exhibit since at this time Märta Måås Fjetterström had her own very successful firm.

Hall 23 Church Arts, interior architect Gunnar Asplund, architect. Digitalmuseum image ARKM.1990-106-052; Gustav W Cronquist, photographer.
Märta Måås Fjetterström, Tulip “Medaljongerna” wall hanging, designed 1926. This example 80×64 cm, nearly exactly the same size as that shown on the balcony in the photo above, was woven before 1941, and marked MMF, was sold at Bukowskis online auction house 10/26/15.

Whatever else Elsa Gullberg contributed to the organization of the Stockholm Exhibition, she clearly had charge of the organization of this building. The following photograph— the original, and then a cropped version— shows her standing in the space. A previous blog post showed her in 1917, dressed as an art student, with a long skirt and a kind of duster or smock over it.  Here she is attired as a confidant modern business woman.

Hall 26, Main Textile Hall., with handwoven and machine made textiles. Elsa Gullberg stands with her firm’s work shown on wall behind her. Digitaltmuseum image ARKM.1985-109-222, photographer unknown
Close up (cropped) version of previous photo, showing more clearly the work of Gullberg’s firm on wall behind her

Both this photograph, and a sketch, published in the book, Elsa Gullberg, Textil Pijonar, makes it clear that the she had claimed the far end wall (the backdrop to her in the photo above) as the display space for her own firm. The sketch is what architects call an “elevation” of that wall— that is a head on view of it.  The sketch shows where she intended to hang each piece. The book is under copyright and the image cannot be reproduced, but I have made a sketch of her sketch below. Mine is in colored pencil rather than watercolor so it is slightly brighter than hers, but it is easy to compare with the photos above and see how she intended to hang things.In the upper left is is a small orange banner with her initials, presumably her firm’s signature, which is obscured in the photographs above.  I have also labeled the floor area and balcony area, which she did not. The pale blue vertical to the right of the sketch is a  structural column–of which there were actually a pair.

Colored-pencil sketch by Anne Whidden of original watercolor sketch by Elsa Gullberg, showing anticipated arrangement of her firm’s rugs. Based on photo of sketch in book, Elsa Gullberg, TextilPionjar.

That end wall is large and very prominent, but was undoubtedly difficult to access and to hang heavy carpets on. It is not clear to me whether the architects planned to use that surface or not—that is, did Gullberg take what looks like the space with the greatest exposure for herself, or did she take a space which no-one else wanted and make it work brilliantly for herself? In either case, it does showcase her firm’s work spectacularly.

In the large photograph shown above the name of Gullberg’s firm’s in the center is partly hidden behind another white sign, but it reads “Textilier” and “Inrendning” (Interior Decoration). From the floor, the centerpiece of the display of Gullberg’s work was the large gobelin tapestry, “Black Diana” (Svarta Diana), based on a painting by artist Nils Dardel and woven by the Gullberg atelier. This piece, was commissioned originally as a design for furnishing the offices of the Swedish Matchstick Company. It is a large green scene of jungle animals flushed into view by a black woman walking calmly behind them. She carries an arrow and what may be a spear, or a bow. A giraffe, elephant, rhinoceros, zebras, lion, and tiger and several hyenas all rush fiercely toward the viewer, with vultures overhead, and monkeys climbing and snakes twining the trees. Oddly, in the middle of all of the mayhem, just at the very base of the picture, and occupying its “frame” are a tame monkey, and another quizzical small creature. This money is dressed like an organ-grinder’s monkey with a jacket and seems to be deep in conversation with the other little creature. If there is a story that this image represents, I don’t know it. Do any readers?

Detail of carpets shown in display of Elsa Gullberg’s firm’s display, including photograph of Black Diana tapestry. Digitaltimage ARKM. 1990-106-082, Gustav W Cronquist, phtographer.
Image of “croquis,” or full-scale sketch for Black Diana tapestry, shown in Gullberg’s firm’s 1951 publicity shot as “Interior of a Summer House,” Sune Sundahl, photographer. This may have been her own home.

In the second most prominent place, and in a position where the public could examine it carefully, centered on the upper balcony (see the sketch above) , is the tapestry of the Odysseus’ story. This was woven by Märta Afzelius, who worked closely with Gullberg in her studio. Woven in white wool with colored figures woven and embroidered it is a realistic cartoon arranged on seven vertical steps with elements from the story. It is a fascinating piece— but one could certainly argue that as an object—handmade wall hanging; as a subject—Greek mythology; and as a technique —tapestry and embroidery, this piece is about as far toward luxury and away from machine-made production as possible.

Other larger figurative and graphic designs from the firm fill the entire wall. One of these, the right- hand-most rug , an enormous pile carpet, was published after the fair. That image is below

Elsa Gullberg, design for large pile rug, “flossa”, 322 x900 cm shown at Stockholm Exhibition of 1930, in upper right corner of photographs of hall, published in later German-language folio, this page found for sale on eBay.

Gullberg’s firm showed ten flat-weave rugs (rölaken) that she designed, and another five pile rugs and five more undesignated ones from designs by  Märta Azelius and Alf Munthe. These are clearly not all on the wall of the Textile Hall, though all of the pile rugs may be. Given the fact that Gullberg also is credited for some of the interior design work for the Nordiska Kompaniet displays, her firm’s work was well represented. Of all the archival documentation on the Stockholm 1930 Exhibition, these photos of the Textile Hall happen to document the work of her firm more than any other single textile-associated firm or organization. Apart from the single small hanging shown in a photo above, there is little photographic evidence, for example, of a body of work from another major contemporary weaver, Märta Måås Fjetterström: where it was hung or what large pieces she showed.

As noted in the last post on the rugs shown in the model dwellings,  the archival captions for these images identify architects but rarely furniture or textile designers.  With regard to the images in this post very few of the rugs shown in this post are identified archivally as being the work of Gullberg’s or other textile firms. The colored photograph of the Black Diana tapestry for example, is labeled as a”detail of carpets, one with animal motifs.”

Organizing the functioning of the Textile Hall itself was no little job. Determining how to show all the rugs, deciding the placement of each of the textile organizations or ateliers, and supervising the installation of hundreds of rugs and carpets in conjunction with the Exhibition architects undoubtedly was a huge project. From the photo evidence, Elsa Gullberg did her job running the textile section of the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition superbly. It is also clear that in so doing, she also was able to bring great attention to the work of her own firm.


brosterman.com. The featured image for this blog post is from the brosterman.com, book catalog website by Norman Bosterman, Image of Asplund textile pavilion for 1930 Swedish fair, shown in on-line catalog, as of 9/11/ 2016,. Item is in pencil, colored pencil, and watercolor on paper, 12 x 12,” signed and dated, Rudolf Perrson, 1929.

Bukowskis online auction house

Creagh, Lucy, Helena Kåberg, and Barbara Miller Lane. Modern Swedish Design -Three Founding Texts, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008.

Dahlbäck Lutteman, Helena and Elisabet Stavenow-Hidemark, Arthur Hald, Barbro Hovstadius and Eva Hallström-Goliger, Elsa Gullberg, Textil pionjär, Stockholm: Nationalmusei katalog nr 523, 1989.

Digitalt museum images of Stockholm fair

National Museum, STOCKHOLMSUTSTALLNINGEN 1930 av konstindustri, konsthantverk och hemslojd. Ett apropâ, maj- -augusti 1980. A brief un-illustrated catalog of items acquired from the Stockholm 1930 Exhibition.

Wikipedia on Nils Dardel, accessed 9/14/16


Please reference as follows:

Whidden, Anne, “Textiles at the Stockholm Exhibition of 1930” theswedishrugblog (9/15/16);  theswedishrugblog.wordpress.com; accessed (day/month/year)

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