Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Marianne Richter

October 14, 2019

Perhaps one of the most important design studios in Swedish textiles, the Märta Måås-Fjetterström (MMF) workshop synthesized historic practices and modern designs in an effort to safeguard traditional craft knowledge while cultivating aesthetic progress. As a student at Konstfack (also known as the University of College of Arts, Crafts and Design) in Stockholm, Marianne Richter spent summers at the MMF atelier in Båstad. There she helped craft sketches and templates for Måås and illustrated advertising materials. Upon Måås’s passing in 1941, Richter was recruited as a lead designer by the studio’s newly appointed director and Richter’s former instructor at Konstfack, Barbro Nilsson. While working with the MMF atelier and eventually becoming a managing director, Richter also maintained her own studio in Stockholm, taught in the textile department of Konstfack, and contracted with a number of Swedish companies. In the early 1950s, the MMF studio was commissioned to execute a hand-woven curtain for the Economic Council Chamber at the United Nations. Having been selected to direct the endeavor, Richter launched not only the most demanding project of her career but the largest work of its kind at the time. The resulting tapestry-like textile measured over 720 square-feet, required the participation of ten weavers, and took two years to complete. The finished work was presented to the Economic Council as a gift from the Swedish government and was hung in New York in 1952.

While consistently abstract, Richter’s body of work included both representative and non-representative designs that explored a variety of formal themes. Described as joyful and uplifting, the artist’s works were marked first and foremost by their playful use of color. The character of her compositions countered the dark and heavy interior palettes that dominated Scandinavian design prior to WWII and resisted the astere impulses of contemporaneous modernist designs as well. Free from the limitations of prevailing styles, Richter developed a visual versatility that appealed to both high-brow patrons and mass consumers within Sweden. A piece such as Richter’s Strålarna carpet (Lot 221) could elevate a monochromatic professional environment just as easily as it could compliment an eclectic domestic setting. The situationally responsive nature of Richter’s work renders it just as compelling and inviting today as it was seventy years ago.


Lot 211
Marianne Richter
Starlarna (carpet)
Executed c. 1949, Märta Måås-Fjetterström
Woven “AB MMF” to lower left corner; woven “MR” lower right
238.25″ x 163.75″; (605 x 416 cm)
Provenance: FJ Hakimian, New York, New York; Private Collection, Berkeley, California (acquired directly from the above, c. 1999)
Literature:Mattor Och Vävnader. Manufacturer cat. 1957. N.pag.

Estimate: $60,000 – $90,000
October 20, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

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