In the 1920s, the newly established arts and crafts school, the Bauhaus in Weimar,
Germany, approached the teaching of art and design in novel and progressive
ways. Fine art and crafts were to be given the same relevance, and men and
women were to have the same status. This proposed equality, however, did not
materialise, neither in an artistic parity nor in an equality of gender. As a result of
the restrictive admission policy a group of female students established a weaving
workshop. Their experiments with material properties, as well as the inventiveness
they demonstrated, significantly elevated weaving above the common
perception of being a craft produced by women within the home and for
This dissertation is concerned with one of the most outstanding and inspiring figures
of the Bauhaus weaving workshop, the German-born Gunta Stölzl (1897-1983).
Stölzl progressed from student, to technical instructor, and to head of the
workshop. Under her directorship the workshop became one of the most
successful of the Bauhaus. A politically motivated conspiracy ended her teaching
career. In1931 Stölzl emigrated to Zurich, Switzerland.
The rationale of this dissertation is to define the underlying issues of identity and
gender which for many years prevented Stölzl from reaching her full artistic
potential. By focusing mainly on the years Stölzl spent in Zurich (1931-83), where
most of her designs were produced, different stages and transitions in Stölzl’s life
and designs will be discussed.
Chapter One examines the formative years of Stölzl’s artistic background. It
considers the time spent at the Bauhaus (1919-31) in order to emphasise the lasting
effect and influence modernist beliefs had on her. The chapter will also look at the
individuality, talent and determination that Stölzl showed from early on.
Chapter Two focuses on the years from 1931 to 1967, in which Stölzl established
herself as a weaver and self-employed business woman in Switzerland. Stölzl’s
dedication to producing good and lasting modern design will be discussed in the
context of collaboration with architects and interior design companies.
Chapter Three will consider her freelance work, mainly the time from 1967 to 1983,
in which Stölzl returned to tapestries. In this exceptionally creative period Stölzl
wove around fifty gobelins. This late phase accorded her oeuvre its overdue
The essay concludes that Stölzl, as a woman and textile artist, was restricted in her
artistic autonomy by social, economic, political and personal circumstances. Yet,
throughout her career she showed an unceasing interest in the properties of
textiles and their material qualities. Stölzl set a high standard of technical mastery
and artistic expression in textile design. Her work is still very much valued and