Robert Kushner Tapestry Designs: Manufacture des Gobelins / by Robert Kushner


In 2011, I was contacted by Manufacture des Gobelins, perhaps the most prestigious tapestry weaving house today, to inquire whether I might create a design to be woven into one of their tapestries.  Gobelins was created in the 1600s at the initiative of  Henry IV and was expanded under Louis XIV in 1662 to create tapestries for the many newly built royal palaces, such as Versailles.  With only brief interruptions the weavers have been weaving ever since.

In recent times, Gobelins has commissioned many important contemporary artists to create tapestry designs.  Picasso, Matisse, Odilon Redon, Raul Dufy, Alexander Calder, Sonia Delaunay and Shirley Jaffe have all supplied drawings or paintings which were brilliantly translated into tapestries.

In the summer of 2012 I toured the factory, observing how the maquettes were translated for the weavers, how the colors were meticulously matched, and how the weavers were working for one or two years to create each design.  I spent some time in their museum of historical tapestries, learning and thinking about just what I wanted to see them make with my designs.

My designs for a tapestry were created at home in my New York studio. The images are of my house plants such as euphorbia and begonia. Impressed with the weavers’ ability to depict gold, I made prominent use of gold leaf in the maquette. When my design was approved, work began, matching the colors and then weaving samples. Here are the first swatches. Now, with my approval, work will begin. For now, these samples serve as a tempting appetizer.