Woven conflicts: Hannah Ryggen’s fascist-fighting tapestries go on show in Frankfurt

Ethiopia (1935), which shows Benito Mussolini being attacked in the top right corner, was censored at the 1937 Paris World Fair © H. Ryggen; Photo: Thor Nielsen, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

The first German survey of the textile artist Hannah Ryggen, who wove tapestries in support of the victims of Fascism and against the Vietnam War from a smallholding on the Norwegian coast, opens at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt.

Ryggen was born into a working-class family in 1894 in Malmö in Sweden. From 1924 until her death in 1970, she lived in Norway. She trained first as a teacher, then learned painting, but by the age of 30 had given it up in favour of weaving monumental tapestries. As a committed socialist, she addressed the political events and conflicts in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s in her work, including the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and the Nazi occupation of Norway.

Her tapestries combine elements of folk art and the European avant-garde with mythological symbols and scenes of daily life. Although she represented Norway at the Venice Biennale in 1964, Ryggens work has often been sidelined as applied art. Many of the works are on loan from the National Museum of Decorative Arts in Trondheim.

“[Ryggens] uncompromising work seems shockingly topical in a time of increasing inequality, nationalism and populism”

“In the past few years, the reception of Ryggens political tapestries has changed and she is drawing increasing attention within the context of contemporary art,” says the Schirn director Philipp Demandt. Her “uncompromising work seems shockingly topical in a time of increasing inequality, nationalism and populism.”

Among the works in the show will be the 1933 tapestry in wool and linen, Fishing in the Sea of Debt, an allegory of the impact of the Great Depression on the fishermen in Orlandet, where Ryggen lived. It shows debt collectors fishing near a capsized boat as its ejected occupants struggle to keep their heads above water.

Ryggen's Grini (1945) show her husband's rescue from a prison camp run by the NazisRead More – Source