Calls for creation

La Rivière au bord de l’eau (The River by the waterside)

Olivier Nottelet, 3rd Prize – 2010 call for contemporary creation

Olivier Nottellet received the 3rd prize of the 2010 call for projects for La Rivière au bord de l’eau. The model was realized by the artist with Indian ink and blue gouache on paper (60 cm high x 80 cm large). The low-warp weaving (300 cm high x 400 cm large) was realized by Bernard Battu’s workshop in Aubusson.

Olivier Nottellet uses essentially the black and the white to work the visual impact of the form, to set graphic masses which stand out from the void. An atmosphere of discord is created. “It is actually the convolution, sometimes inextricable, which bounds memory, representation, evocation, retinal persistence, that is precisely this, which creates my activity” explains the artist.

His drawings are first and foremost created with Indian ink in classical format notebook, like a raw material thereafter enlarged, reworked. Playing with the lines and forms, Olivier Nottellet creates a fluid black material, some sort of a mass, which floats, rolls or sinks. This fluidity is particularly present in La Rivière au bord de l’eau by the aquatic atmosphere characterizing the model. The technical writing of the weaver allowed him to transcribe this universe into the tapestry: black masses were realized in triple warp thread to obtain a stronger weaving stitch, with an addition of fiberglass to the wool to emboss the design of this material, central in Nottellet’s work. A smart wink to the fantasy elements present in his works, which yet take reality as a starting point.

In his work, the artist breaks free from traditional distinctions: he is always located on the border between figuration and abstraction, between drawing and sculpture, between forms and materials. Playing with the codes of lyrical abstraction of the post-war period, he reuses the formal writings – reminding for example of George Matthieu or Pierre Soulages, abstraction master – and sorts out a figurative writing. The ambiguity between the full and the empty, the style and the content is strengthened by the contrast inducted by the color within this black and white flow.

Leaning on the immersive force of the tapestry medium and the fact that Olivier Nottellet’s work articulates drawings, objects and installations, the Cité internationale asked the artist to think of a specific space, which could welcome and highlight this work.

Calls for creation

Blink # 0

Benjamin Hochart, 2nd Prize – 2010 Call for contemporary creation

Benjamin Hochart received the second price 2010 of the Cité internationale for his work Blink#0. The wool weaving was realized by the Ateliers Pinton in Felletin. Size of each piece 155 cm x 220 cm.

Blink#0 is a work, entirely adjustable, movable and nomadic. Benjamin Hochart imagined his triptych, in a way it could be hanged to the wall or left on the floor, reminding then the dimensions of the Aubusson tapestry, both monumental and domestic. The pieces of the triptych can be presented four-ways as well, because they are still readable, whatever the reading sense is. They can be exposed simultaneously or separately to better adapt the space and the architecture. Blink#0 is a work skillfully merging weaving art and space art, in coherence with the essence of the Aubusson tapestry. Benjamin Hochart proposes a serial work extremely structured. For the three pieces of Blink#0, the background is the same. It is a question of a drawing realized for the cover of the third number of Roven magazine, a critical periodical on contemporary drawing. A black form can be found as well, which creates the coherence of the series, on the three pieces. The artist builds his drawings on the mind-map scheme, which is a mental drawing aiming to offer both a detailed vision and an overview of a subject. This constantly evolving tool allows ranking the transmitted information, to put it in order. Thus, each form leads to the following, from the center to the outskirt.

He follows also a very codified method, which he developed in 2007. This method, called “dodecaphonic” in reference to Schönberg’s atonal music, allows him to define a “structure, which acts as a music score.” Thus, the drawing is an interpretation, in the musical sense of the term. His creation work is limited because, before beginning to draw, Benjamin Hochart sets the pencils he is about to use in a specific order. He begins his work in the center of the sheet with the first pencil, which he would take back, only after using all the others, one after the other.

Benjamin Hochart is born in 1982. He has graduated the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Lyon and teaches at the Superior School of Art in Cherbourg. He is represented by the Martine and Thibault de la Châtre gallery in Paris.

Calls for creation

Peau de Licorne (Unicorn Skin)

Nicolas Buffe, Grand Prize - 2010 contemporary call for creation.

A first iconic Grand Prize

Grand prize of the 2010 call for project: Peau de licorne, of Nicolas Buffe (born in 1978). Collection Cité internationale de la tapisserie, Aubusson. The model was printed from a digital image (178 cm high x 127 cm large). The tapestry is realized with wool and silk by the Patrick Guillot workshop in Aubusson, the head, hoofs, and tail in Limoges porcelain enameled by the Centre de Recherche sur les Arts du Feu et de la Terre (CRAFT) in Limoges.

An iconoclastic style merging pop culture and scholar culture

His works are composed of decors borrowed from the mannerist ornament, baroque or rococo, blended with characters from comics or animation film.

“Assembling, pasting, mixing characters out of the pop culture and scholar culture, I proceed to the most eloquent possible associations, following my pleasure. This dialogue between past and present, which is deeply written within my work come under the entertainment.”

The artist draws with white chalk on a black background, his compositions invade the wall space. In 2008 at the Tokyo Contemporary Art Museum, he invested entirely an exhibition room with almost 200 m2 of finely drawn surface.

“As a child, in the 1980’s, the cultural atmosphere in which I bathed, was strongly influenced by the Japanese imagery of the mangas and video games on the one hand, and by the trace leaved by American animated cartoons. By using these elements, I am referring to a vocabulary, which has a very widely spread impact, even universal. I am not only into art history, but into animation history as well, so as comics and toys.”

Nicolas Buffe is constantly concerned with building and developing a new manner, which he puts to the test on very different mediums; architecture, objects, toys: “It is even more so exciting that the grotesques are twisting at leisure to adapt to whatever chosen form.”

Peau de licorne: kill a symbol to see it reborn.

“Working in Aubusson, it is putting the finger on the tapestry history in France and being part of this history as well, by kicking it (with all my due respect…) to have it penetrate my present and my pleasure.”

The celebrity of the two tapestry series of the Dame à la licorne (woven in the end of the 15th Century in the Flanders and conserved at the Cluny Museum in Paris) and the Chasse à la licorne (woven in 1500 in the Flanders and conserved at the Metropolitan Museum in New York), is such that the imaginary animal can be considered nowadays as tapestry emblematic.

“I conceived a project representing the unicorn’s corpse. In this somehow iconoclastic gesture of killing the symbol to regenerate it, I hope to print the mark of a new era full of stimulating creations for Aubusson, but for the French tapestry as well.”

In the late Middle Ages, the white unicorn, so as we know it today, appears in the bestiaries as a Christ symbol. Nicolas Buffe, by referring the five wounds of the Christ, integrates to his work the heart (as a target) pierced by the spear which killed the animal, so as Jesus on the cross. Like the series of the Chasse à la licorne tapestries, the dogs are numerous; they are represented here in the middle of a run, by referring the photographs of the bitch Maggie, taken in 1887 by Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) within the frame of its work on the photograph deconstruction of the movement.

Nicolas Buffe has graduated the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He lives and works in Tokyo.


Upload the Press kit of the project (PDF)

Past exhibition

Aubusson weaves Tolkien: a unique hanging

Du 01 February 2018 au 31 December 2019

The project “Aubusson weaves Tolkien” floods the Cité’s creative platform to showcase there cartoons, which will allow realizing 14 weavings after original illustrations of the famous author of Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien. During the whole year, the visitors can picture there the “making-of” of this monumental weaved project and discover the Tolkien tapestries, as their weaving goes along, amongst them the first ever Tolkien tapestry: Bilbo comes to the Hut of the Raft-Elves.

The Cité internationale de la tapisserie signed a convention with the Tolkien Estate for the four-years realization in Aubusson of an exclusive series of thirteen tapestries and one rug, weaved after the original graphic work of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892 – 1973).

Such a highlighting project of this major area of the author’s work is unseen before. It is also very innovative in the tapestry world, because it is about realizing a narrative hanging which will place amongst the most famous of the entire world, excerpted from the 20th Century greatest literary saga, while this bound between tapestry and literature seems to have been lost from the late 18th Century onwards.

The first step of this project consists in realizing tapestry cartoons after chosen works in collaboration with the Tolkien family. The adaptation of these 14 watercolors into the realization of monumental tapestries represents a true challenge.

The Cité gave its creative platform a new look, with colors of the Middle Earth: the visitors can discover here the necessary process of creation of those monumental weaved works.

The preparation of the cartoon, which provides to the weaver a precise and detailed guide for the weaving, is indeed an essential work, all the more so complex it is about creating a hanging, that is a group of several tapestries: textile interpretation, choice of the color range, technical writings and notes etc.

The 14 chosen illustrations chosen and destined to be weaved are unveiled to the public there.

The visitors discover notably the work on the color choice with help of gouache samples, realized on the cartoons and the string of corresponding tainted wools, but also the technical advices destined to the weavers in charge of the weavings, thanks to a sample weaved by the referent weaver, representing a particularly technical excerpt of the first tapestry to be realized, Bilbo comes to the Hut of the Raft-Elves, and which joined the exhibit space after its “fall from the loom” on April, 6th 2018. Realized by the Atelier A2 in association with the Atelier Françoise Vernaudon on the massive low-warp loom the Cité provides the weavers, the weaving demanded 5 months of work.

This exhibition space is the occasion, as much for the visitors as for the actors of the tapestry in Aubusson, to wander in a reading room, to sink into the universe of the Middle Earth and discover which passages from The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings or the Silmarillion correspond to the graphic works, which will compose this hanging, thus linking the writer and the artist aspect of J.R.R. Tolkien.

4 tapestries are already on display by the end of the year 2018.


Low season: open every day 9.30-12 a.m ; 2-6 p.m except on Tuesdays (weekly closure).

July & August: open every day from 10 a.m to 6 p.m except on Tuesdays (from 2 to 6 p.m only).

Sponsored projects

eL Seed

A project of contemporary creation in Aubusson tapestry materializes itself thanks to the involvement of the Cité de la tapisserie on the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) market: C'est l’aube, by eL Seed.

Amongst his mission of economic and artistic support to the tapestry field, the Cité internationale engaged a market research in the U.A.E. in 2016, with the hiring of a Business International Volunteer in charge of creating a contact network and determine the important artists, in the eyes of the U.A.E., likely to be weaved.

The Creusois Senator Jean-Jacques Lozach, then President of the Cité internationale, the Cité Director Emmanuel Gérard, so as a Commission of the Creusois Trade and Industry Chamber flew thereafter to the U.A.E. to carry this mission out. Several projects are in the process of being realized, some of them will allow the presence of the Aubusson tapestry in the most prestigious places of the Emirates.

A project caught in particular the attention of the Cité internatinale to integrate the contemporary section of its public collection “Musée de France”. It is about a model proposed by the French-Tunisian artist eL Seed, settled in Dubai. The Cité internationale wished to acquire a model of this artist and have it weaved within the scope of the regional Funding for the creation of contemporary tapestry.

This project, totally representative of the new engaged process to develop tapestries orders from the Emirates, is then initiated by an exemplary work of the bridge creation between the French artistic profession and the contemporary expression of an artist coming from the Muslim world, in the following of the UNESCO labelling.

Moreover, eL Seed’s work is in line with the wall art approach in the perspective of a future implication of this artist in the tapestry.

Wishing his future tapestry to refer strongly to the French tradition, he realized a first model by calligraphing one lucky phrase of Jean Lurçat’s: “It is the dawn of a new world, a world where man would not be a wolf for man” engraved on his academician sword.

Presented to the directors of the Arabic World Institute, this project received support and written encouragements on behalf of Jack Lang, President of the IMA.

The oil on canvas C’est l’aube is destined to become a weaving of 2,50 m x 2,50 m.

The artist came to Aubusson in October for a working and exchange session around the weaved transcript of its work. Accompanied by a cartoon maker and the conservator of the Cité internationale, he determined a very precise bill of specifications containing his intentions for the weaving, the works of its collections being suitable to serve as reference (notably Triangles Blancs from Alexander Calder). A part of the work has been selected to act as a base for a weaving sample, on which the weaving workshops would be judged within the scope of adjudications launched in the beginning of the year. The “fall from the loom” of C’est l’aube, el Seed’s first tapestry and presaging a long-lasting collaboration, is considered for the 2018 autumn. The artist will be in charge of his work’s diffusion to the collectors and museums, in preparation for re-weavings in the limit of 7 still possible copies.

Born in France in 1981, eL Seed settled his creation studio in the U.A.E. eL Seed’s calligraphic compositions call not only for the words and their signification, but for their movement as well, which brings the spectator into a surrealist universe. eL Seed comes up, through his work, to subjects, which seem contradictory, but which reflect the complex reality of man and the world, in which we leave.

eL Seed established his work in the public space, galleries and institutions all around the world. From New York streets to Rio de Janeiro favelas, from Cap slums to Paris buildings, his contemporary approach tends to bring peoples, cultures and generations together.

In 2017, eL Seed won the UNESCO Sharjah Price for Arabic culture. He is named “Global Thinker” in 2016 by the periodical Foreign Policy for its “Perception” project in the Ragman neighbor in Cairo. In 2013, he collaborates with Louis Vuitton by decorating the famous “Foulard d’artiste” of his calligraphies.


Discover the other works of eL Seed on its website

Sponsored projects

Pieta for World War 1, Tapestry for the Centenary

The Cité as produced the only commemorative tapestry for the Centenary of the First World War. A project of massive tapestry in partnership with the National Monument of Hartmannswillerkopf (Haut-Rhin) Comity, which has “fallen from the loom” in June 2017 after almost a year of weaving.

Thanks to the patronage of the Groupe Würth, the Cité international integrated in its collections a sketch of the German painter Thomas Bayrle (born in 1937), a Pop Art pioneer. The artwork has been unveiled on Thursday, 24th March 2016 in Aubusson, in the presence of M. Jean-Marc Todeschini, secretary of State responsible for the Veterans and the Memory.

This poignant Pieta, consisting in a multitude of skulls, will give birth to an immense tapestry of more than 20 m2, named Pietà for the World War I. It will constitute one of the iconic works of the centenary of the Great War, destined to be displayed during the National Monument of Hartmannswillerkopf opening ceremony. This work fits in the labeled project by the “Mission du Centenaire de la Première Guerre mondiale”, an public interest group created in 2012.

The weaving of this major piece has been entrusted the “Atelier Patrick Guillot”. It began in June 2016 in a workshop dedicated to special orders within the Cité internationale and the work has “fallen from the loom” on June, 9th 2017. The 21 m2 tapestry develops different techniques and materials to create the optical illusion and the embossed design of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ: cotton, wool, silk, viscose, by way of textured polyester fibers, worn out by the external tapestry prototype, to create the white colored eyes of the Pieta.

A French-German project for a common duty of remembrance

The Centenary tapestry project has been progressively built by a process of partnership between the Monument of Hartmannswillerkopf Comity and the Cité internationale.

The inherent qualities of the tapestry medium – nomadism, immersive and narrative universe, long-lasting communicative media – answers the will the create a peripatetic work. Indeed, this one will be displayed in the future French-German history museum in the Hartmannswillerkopf, Alsace, from its inauguration in Aubusson, its place of production. It will be exposed in different sites of WWI German and French front or in institutions, dedicated to this same theme.

This project received the support of the “Mission du centenaire de la Première Guerre mondiale”, the Groupe Würth, La France mutualiste and the national Federation André Maginot.

Thomas Bayrle was born in 1937 in Berlin. He lives and works in Frankfurt. His works have integrated, amongst others, the Modern Art Museum of Frankfurt, the Art Museum of Stuttgart, the MOCA of Los Angeles, the FNAC in Puteaux and the FRAC in the Limousin. Its pictural productions are part of the Pop Art. They consist in the repetition of a motive variable in size, reflected to represent itself, playing then on the optical sensations of the spectators.


Discover the works of Thomas Bayrle on

Sponsored projects

Clément Cogitore

The artist and director Clément Cogitore played along the adaptation of a work into an Aubusson tapestry, thanks to the patronage of the corporate foundation AG2R La Mondiale for artistic vitality.

Within the scope of the regional Funding for contemporary tapestries creation, and in parallel with calls for projects launched every year since 2010, the Cité internationale works for the Aubusson tapestries creation and thus, supporting its economical field through specific projects, realized in partnership with artists, architects, galleries, studios or other institutions.

The Cité internationale works currently with the artist and director Clément Cogitore in the aim to create a tapestry, unavoidably contemporary, adapted from a picture created from several screenshots of the 2011 actuality, during the Egyptian revolutions: Ghost_Horseman_of_the_Apocalypse_in_Cairo_Egypt.jpg. This collaboration is the result of the meeting, a few years ago, of the headmaster of the Cité internationale Emmanuel Gérard and Clément Cogitore, by the intermediary of Jérémy Planchon and Camille de Bayser.

The acquisition of this sketch, which integrates the “Musée de France” collections of the Cité internationale, is supported by the corporate foundation AG2R La Mondiale for its artistic vitality. Created in April 2007, this corporate foundation dedicated to the cultural patronage is engaged in favor of the territories, the preservation of the regional cultural heritage, material and immaterial, the valorization of the contemporary creation, so as the promotion of the artistic professions.


Clément Cogitore is interested in the tradition of the battle representation in the artistic field, for its cinegenic aspects and its quality in producing stories, fiction and novels, by relying on Paolo Uccello’s iconography, with his Battle of San Romano (around 1456).

For his tapestry project, Clément Cogitore draws his inspiration from the actuality pictures of the 2011 riots on Tahrir’s place in Egypt. Among the riots’ plans, a sequence was particularly reused worldwide because a luminous halo (a flare[1]) crossed through the crowd and evoking the silhouette of a man on a horse. Netizens all over the world then identified it with the one of the fourth rider of the Apocalypse, making of those images a new story.

Working from very enlarged screenshots, Clément Cogitore have an interest in the relationship between the digital picture and the tapestry and their common relationship with the pixel. The discovery of the know-how is then considered as a preparation time essential to the model creation.

“This project falls in with my work about very little defined images, circulating in a network sparking off stories, beliefs or superstitionby the viewer in his absence of details. By the lack of informations it communicates, the image becomes then a projection media of the spectator’s imagination, opened to every possibilities”, Clément Cogitore

The technical adaptation

What is technically at stake is the interpretation with the cartoon painter and the weaver of a very little defined digital picture, so compressed that the details are missing, and its translation into a rather wide weaving, giving a strong presence to the textile, in important dimensions: 5X2 meters. To determine the choice of color and material and define the “grain” of the future tapestry (the weaving’s size), the artist, accompanied by a technical comity constituted by the Cité internationale, chose to have “tirelles” realized, that is small samples, weaved only on a few centimeters wide. The weaving comity works to define a precise bill of specifications for the weaving of the work, for the launch of adjudications by the weaving workshops of the Aubusson-Felletin region. The tapestry will join the contemporary Content of the Cité internationale.

Born in 1983 in Colmar, Clément Cogitore lives and works in Paris. He is represented by the Eva Hober Gallery (Paris) and the Reinhard Hauff Gallery (Stuttgart).

After studying at the Superior School for Decorative Arts in Strasbourg and at Fresnoy-National Studio of Contemporary Arts, Clément Cogitore develops an experience in-between the cinema and the contemporary arts. Merging films, video, installations and photographs, his work questions the condition of cohabitation between humans and their images. It is most of the time question of rituals, collective remembrance, representation of the sacred so as a certain idea of the permeability of the worlds.

Clément Cogitore was awarded in 2011 the Great price of the Montrouge Salon, then nominated for the year 2012 as pensionary of the Académie de France in Rome-Villa Médicis. In 2015, his first feature film Ni le ciel, Ni la terre was awarded by the Prix de la Fondation Gan at the Cannes Festival – Critique’s week. It was nominated for the 2016 Césars in the First Film category. It received in 2016 the Prix Sciences Po for contemporary art, so as the Prix de la Fondation Ricard: two of its works were then selected to integrate the Centre Pompidou’s collection, national Museum of modern art, and are currently on display. His work was exposed during the summer of 2016 at the Palais de Tokyo. First laureate of the Prix le BAL for Young Creation with the ADAGP, he presents his project Braguino ou La communauté impossible at the BAL (“independent platform of exhibition, edition, reflexion and education, dedicated to the contemporary image under all of its forms”) until the 24th, December 2017. A project which received a special distinction from the Grand Prix de la competition internationale du FIDMarseille last July. Clément Cogitore is competing for the Prix Marcel Duchamp 2018 beside the artists Mohammed Bourouissa, Thu Van Tran and Marie Voignier.

[1] A flare is an optical aberration due to an interfering light spread in the camera lens.


Delegated edition for furniture and decoration

The Cité internationale de la tapisserie launches a partnership with the Studio Ymer & Malta for the edition of a mini-collection of furniture and decoration pieces. A project which serves the economy of the sector.

A delegated edition project of six pieces integrating weavings of Aubusson tapestry is being made, taking the form of a private-public partnership between the Cité and the Studio Ymer & Malta (Paris). Within the scope of the regional Found for the creation of contemporary tapestries, the Cité entrusted the studio with the conception, the development and the sale of this mini-collection. The studio is in charge of the re-weaving of the pieces (to seven copies, added to the prototype exemplary kept by the Cité).

The objective is to generate activity in the workshops of the region, through the orders of some pieces, which carry innovative and modern ideas. For the studio director, Valérie Maltaverne, it is about leaning on the traditional artistic profession by coming up to the professional practices’ habits with a fresh perspective and associate the weavers in this procedure of research and innovation. This procedure already gave birth to luxury collections with the artistic profession of leather and marquetry.

Thus, five designers were invited to discover the know-how of Aubusson, meet the professionals, to readapt the conceptions of their pieces: Benjamin Graindorge, Sylvain Rieu-Piquet, Ferréol Babin, Sébastian Bergne and Kenza Drancourt. The prototypes of the works will integrate the Cité’s collections.

The Studio Ymer & Malta, design studio and editor of exceptional furniture since 2009, is a research and innovation lab dealing with luxury creations, where the biggest names in design converse with the craftsmen.


Discover the work of the studio Ymer & Malta on its website

Six centuries of history

Tapestry nowadays

At the crossing of the disciplines. In the beginning of the 21st Century, Aubusson’s tapestry know a new lease of life as it rebinds with the contemporary creation and renews its uses upon contact with other disciplines or through research and innovation programs.

Initiated since the end of the 20th Century with creators coming from the design world, such as Sylvain Dubuisson, this new period is truly inaugurated thanks to the common public order of the State, department Council of Creuse, with the support of the regional Council of the Limousin, the “Tenture de l’an 2001” in eleven pieces, themed on inventions and discoveries of yesterday and of today serving humanity. It gathers within the art of tapestry artists from diverse backgrounds, such as Philippe Favier or Reza Farkhondeh. The public order or private initiative allows the creation of important weavings, entrusted to well-known artists: Robert Combas, Hervé Di Rosa, Fabrice Hyber or Gérard Garouste.

For the “Cité de la tapisserie”, the priority is given to rebound with each and every form of contemporary creations, so that the illustrators, designers and house architects merge with the plastic artists and innovate in terms of use and conception, revitalizing the tapestry and its place on the art market. Because, from now on, the artistic creation bound to the tapestry production is polymorphous: painting, drawing, photograph or digital picture, by way of sculpture or architecture.

Thus, since 2010, the call for projects of the regional Funding for the creation of contemporary tapestries allows each year to give a strong signal to the Aubusson tapestry, readable both by the contemporary art connoisseurs and the general public, through the request for talented creators, offspring of the painter’s tapestry movement of the 20th Century. The calls for projects allowed the Cité internationale de la tapisserie to sustain the contemporary collection by selecting and having original sketches weaved, amongst hundreds of propositions.

The regional Funding for contemporary tapestry creation allows also the Cité internationale to revitalize the creation and the contemporary collection thanks to the development of specific projects, creations in partnership with other institutions and galleries by commissioning the artists or designers: tapestry for the Centenary of the First World War, furniture collection, weaved works of the artists Clément Cogitore or eL Seed etc.

Beyond the constitution of a referring collection, the Cité internationale plays a role in the tapestry edition as well. It encourages the weaving development in the Aubusson-Felletin workshops by private individuals, businesses or institutions, by letting them get in touch with the regional craftsman and offering a technical follow-up to complete their project to acquire a weaved work successfully.

The yearly call for creation allows notably highlighting a catalog of artistic projects exploitable for Aubusson-Felletin weavings: Laurent Grasso Marlène Mocquet, Philippe Rahm, Perrine Vigneron etc. The laureate projects, weaved for the contemporary Funding of the Cité internationale can be the subject of re-weavings, in the limit of eight copies.

Six centuries of history

20th Century renovation

The 20th Century is a period of disruption, where the tapestry reinforces its link with the avant-garde creation. Some institutions such as the Aubusson National School of Decorative Arts and personalities like Antoine-Marius Martin (School’s director) , Marie Cuttoli (collector and textile editor), play here a leading role. But history remembers mostly one name: the painter Jean Lurçat, founder of the tapestry renewal from the 1940’s onwards.

Aubusson’s National School of Decorative Arts

In 1884, Aubusson’s municipal drawing School, founded in the 18th Century (in the move of the royal tapestry Manufacture reform), becomes the National School of Decorative Arts, beside Paris’ and Limoges’, with the same director Auguste Louvrier de Lajolais (1829-1908). The latter relies on professors from Paris to supply both provincial cities with models.

The School, so called “ENAD” in French (Ecole Nationale d’Arts Décoratifs), plays an important part in the renewal of the tapestry art and technique in the 20th Century. The School dispenses courses of low- and high-warp weaving and “Saracen” embroidery, known under the name of Aubusson cross stitch embroidery. Well-known artists furnishes cartoons: Pierre-Victor Galland (1822-1892) , painter decorator; Charles Genuys  (1852-1928), chief architect of the historical monuments; Henry de Waroquier (1881-1970), painter and engraver, professor at the Estienne School in Paris.

The School of Decorative Arts renews the tapestry

From 1917, the Aubusson School’s new director, Antoine-Marius Martin (1869-1955) wishes to see the art of weaving evolve.

- Renew the models by looking for different painters of his era, notably postimpressionists;

- Retain in the medieval tapestries, characteristics transposable to the modernity: reduce the amount of colors, weave with much larger threads, use a more assertive technical writing (battage[1], stripes, piping etc.)

He replaces painted cartoons (models for the weavers) by inked cartoons, so-called “à tons comptés”, which are now drawings with its lines marking out the divers colored surfaces.

Then, very early, he would theorize and publish the principles of what he calls the tapestry Renovation twenty years before the artist Jean Lurçat, considered since the 1940’s as the inventor of this Renovation.

The 1926 international Exhibit of the Decorative Arts in Paris

In 1925, Antoine-Marius Martin, Aubusson School’s director, presents his researches of the tapestry renewal on a stand at the Grand Palais during the prestigious international Exhibit of Decorative Arts. The public discovers there totally unreleased student works and is amazed by the thickness of the used threads but catch a glimpse of the modernity of these young creations as well.

The cartoon painters

Antoine- Marius Martin’s successor, Elie Maingonnat (1892-1966) pursues until 1958 the same dynamic, with the artist Jean Lurçat and his followers, from 1937 onwards.

The new conducted researches within the Aubusson National School of Decorative Arts during the 1920’s lead to a painter’s movement knowing the tapestry techniques and are the authors of their own weaving-suitable cartoons. Thus, the textile interpretation, basis of the art of tapestry making, is here strongly mastered by the artist.

Jean Lurçat’s (1892-1966) beginnings in Aubusson

In the early 20th Century, Jean Lurçat is an artist linked with the surrealist movement. His painting encounters a pretty good success, his mother and his first wife (Marthe Hennebert) realize for him massive needlestitch tapestries.

For the editor and collector Marie Cuttoli, he draws rugs and a first cartoon of tapestry is weaved in Aubusson in 1931. In 1937, he discovers the innovative work of the Aubusson National School of Decorative Arts, so as the 16th Century hanging, so-called “d’Anglards-de-Salers”, which makes a strong impression on him. The following year, he is deeply marked by the Apocalypse hanging in Angers. In 1939, the national Manufactures’ director, Guillaume Jeanneau, entrusts him with the order of a furniture ensemble with tapestry (weaved at the Gobelins) and a mission in Aubusson: find a new genre of decor. The models created are remarked thanks to the strength of their expressivity and their few vivid colors.

Jean Lurçat revives the production in the workshops

 Jean Lurçat is a great actor of the tapestry renewal in the 20th Century. He played a particularly important role due to the amount of orders he provoked, contributing to a workshop boost and many hiring (Dom Robert, Marc Saint-Saëns, Mario Prassinos, Robert Wogensky, Michel Tourlière, Mathieu Matégot etc.), creating a very strong emulation in Aubusson.

His tapestries with vivid colors have most of the time a monumental character destined to dress up modern architectures. His symbolic universe plays over the four elements, the vegetal and animal kingdom, the human’s place in the cosmos. The artist puts into frame poetic writings (of Eluard, Aragon, Tzara, Desnos etc.) and claims in his weavings the engagement in the Second World War Resistance. His graphics is characteristic and some motives such as the sun and the rooster are key symbols.

Marie Cuttoli’s role: tapestry editor

Marie Cuttoli (1879-1973) is a woman with a strong personality, Avant-garde works collector in the beginning of the 20th Century, tapestry lover and art seller. She does not have any interest in the “official” artists of the Aubusson National School of Decorative Arts. She took advantage of her husband’s (Paul Cuttoli) nomination as prefect of Algeria to settle down there a rug manufacture, Myrbor. She entrusts the models creation to contemporary artists (Fernand Léger, Jean Lurçat).

From 1928 onwards, she had Aubusson tapestries done by placing an order to several artists: Lucien Couteau, Jean Lurçat, Georges Rouault, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Le Corbusier, Raoul Dufy, Man Ray etc. She had notably the Marcelle Delarbre workshop in Aubusson working. The weavings went immediately to her Parisian collection or to the USA, where she organized in 1939 an important touring exhibition with help of the collector Albert Barnes and the San Fransisco museum conservator. This exhibition and its escorting catalogs will develop an American customer base, acquainted with the French Avant-garde painter’s tapestry style. The impact is so big that even today, in the USA; “aubusson” is still used as a common name to qualify a low-pile carpet.

Painter’s tapestries: great artists have their tapestries done in Aubusson

There is a second stream, which marks the 20th Century, with some artists having tapestries occasionally weaved and who bound, if needed, with a cartoon painter made responsible for the adaptation of their original work to the tapestry of Aubusson weaving style.

Pierre Baudoin: an interpreter at the service of the artists

Pierre Baudoin (1921-1970) is an artist teaching at Aubusson’s and Paris’ Sèvres highschool. In 1946, he discovers the tapestry and falls in love with the question of the textile transcription of an art work, whose first purpose is not to become weaved. He becomes a specialist in this field as he developed tapestry cartoons from original works (often etching or small size paintings). He chooses the weavings’ texture (size of the stitch) and manages the wool dying.

He works at first with Henri-Georges Adam, then for Le Corbusier, of who he would become the assistant in the realization of weaved works. He develops cartoons for George Braque, Alexandre Calder, Jean Arp, Pablo Picasso, André Beaudin, Max Ernst, Maurice Estève, Charles Lapicque etc. The weavings are subtle and relevant transpositions. Thanks to the intelligence and the accuracy of Pierre Baudoin’s adaptation work, the artists were always fully authors of their works weaved.

The Denise René gallery, engaged in the abstract

In 1951, Denise René, gallery owner in Paris, specialized in abstract and optical art, begins to edit tapestries with the will to create previously unseen and experimental pieces. To produce these new works, she gets in touch with François Tabard, head of one of the most important tapestry workshop in Aubusson.

The kingpin of this adventure is Victor Vasarely, optical art painter. He establishes for himself and for the artists the cartoons from original templates using the technique of the enlarged photograph.

The regular artists of the gallery are Dewasne, Deyrolle, Herbin, Magnelli, Mortensen, Pillet and Vasarely, associated with celebrities such as Arp, Taeuber Arp, Kandinsky, Léger and Le Corbusier. After a first exhibition in June 1952, many others take place in Paris or New York, including new artists as well, such as Albers, Agam, Sonia Delaunay, Van Doesburg, Bloc etc. The abstract tapestry knew at that time its full development.


In 1960, Pierre Baudoin (cartoon painter) and Jacques Lagrange (artist) organize an exhibition of Coptic tapestries, lent notably by the Louvres museum, to the “Galerie d’Aubusson (Grenelle street in Paris) with André de Persine, landlord.

Struck by the plastic art power emanating from these small formats, they convinced several artists to create small size projects: Arp, Braque, Calder, Edelmann, Gischia, Lagrange, Picasso etc.

The weavings of these small size formats began from 1960 onwards. They are technically demanding, because at that scale, even the smallest flaw can be visible.

The transformation of the National School of Decorative Arts (NSDA) in Aubusson

In the late 1960’s, Michel Tourlière (1925-2004) have the actual building of Aubusson’s NSDA built, with the project of creating an institution based on the excellence of the weaver’s formation and a vast opening worldwide. In the 1960’s, merged with the one of Limoges, Aubusson’s NSDA engages within the scope of creative school’s European competition, as the perspective of textile design as a possible evolution of the tapestry teaching was not retained. Thereafter, the educational resources are transferred to Limoges, leading to the unavoidable closing down of the establishment. The building encounters today a new lease of life thanks to the creation of the “Cité internationale de la tapisserie.”


[1] A woven technique used for shading and transparencies.