Frida Hansen Transparency Technique–Research in Pixels and Yarn

I am deep into research on the open warp wool transparencies of Frida Hansen and her followers. At the same time I am deep into my own exploration of her technique, both because I love its expressive possibilities and I’ve committed to teaching two transparent tapestry workshops in the fall of 2023. The first will be at Vesterheim Folk Art School in Decorah, Iowa, September 14-17, and the second is in San Diego in early November. Both are in the works, and I will let people know when details and registration are available in 2023.

All current research on Frida Hansen builds on the incredibly thorough work of Anniken Thue, Hansen’s biographer. She compiled Frida Hansen (1855-1931). Europeeren I norsk vevkunst: Oeuvrefortegnelse og biografisk innledning, 1973 [Frida Hansen: A European in Norwegian Weaving Arts: A List of Works and Biographical Introduction]. Thue’s comprehensive biography followed in 1986. My copy of her initial catalog is nearly in shreds.

Anniken Thue’s list of Hansen’s works is exhaustive and indispensable, but it’s sometimes frustrating to examine only small black-and-white photos in the catalog. At the time Thue conducted her research, many of Hansen’s works were in private hands. But 1973 was a long time ago. Now more of her works are owned by museums, and we are lucky to have access to many beautiful images. For example, on page 55 of the catalog, look at #82, Clematis og Paradisfugler [Clematis and Birds of Paradise]. Anniken Thue knew of two private owners of transparencies in this design.

Now that transparency is owned by the Stavanger Art Museum. This is the photo found on the Norwegian Digital Library. An amazing difference!

Frida Hansen. “Clematis and Birds of Paradise,” 1924. Owned by the Stavanger Kunstmuseum

If you look again at the book page above, #80 was documented, but only with an old photograph. Anniken Thue was not able to discover where it went. Maybe it will turn up! It is unusual, in that it includes pile on portions of the transparency.

Sommer, #88

In the catalog, only a sketch is included to illustrate a portier named Sommer [Summer]. it was designed by Frida Hansen and woven by her daughter, Elisa M. Levy, around 1930. It is owned by the family.

One of Frida Hansen’s descendants shared a photo of the transparency woven by Elisa Levy, which is currently in storage.

Wow! It’s amazing to see the colors. I asked about the figures with wings. In the sketch they are clean-shaven figures; in the tapestry, they are bearded. I also learned that the family called the tapestry Amoriner [Cupids], although the man who sent it to me felt the bearded figures look more like fauns, ancient forest creatures.

I am going to use this transparency design as I switch from research in pixels to research in yarn. To experiment with a new warp yarn, I will weave a portion of the design, the vase with flowers and tumbling foliage. More on the design process soon.

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