The beginnings of textile art in Slovakia are inextricably linked to developments in the Czech Republic, as at that time we already coexisted in one state, in the former Czechoslovakia. Another significant factor was the fact that this development fell into an age when our republic went through many dramatic changes. War, liberation and the establishment of the communist regime obviously had an impact on the shaping of our textile production. Since it is a historically almost unladen art discipline without deep roots, unlike for example, from the French destination, these events had a significant impact on it. Both countries, Czech Republic and Slovakia, did not have a domestic tradition of tapestry in their history, even though knowledge and interest in this form of textile art was already evident in the past. The import of tapestries from Flanders, Germany and France was indeed very much alive, but the manufacture production of large woven tapestries did not have a tradition in our area. However, this does not apply to other textile techniques. For example, embroidery has been known in our country since the Middle Ages, as evidenced by the preserved remains. In addition, there was a variety of weaving techniques, production of lace, used as utility textiles, and so on. In our tradition they are preserved in very many variations, especially in folk art.
Today we can say that the origins of our own tapestry production do not extend further than the end of the 19th century, more precisely in the Art Nouveau period. Shop manufactories that arose due to the enthusiastic ideals of two personalities, Rudolf Schlattauer and Marie Hoppe-Teinitzerová, take credit in the revival of this craft and the emergence of artistic textile production in former Czechoslovakia.
Both workshops have become a platform for artists prone to this form of art. Like in France through the pioneering efforts of Jean Lurçat and the associations of painters – cartonists, even here tapestry began to take shape in the painting environment. Carton was an essential element in the process of tapestry weaving. Later, with the increasingly deepening interest of artists in the actual implementation, this auxiliary tool started to fade. Here we can speak of autonomous authorial tapestry production, which, paradoxically, was first evolved in the workshops. Over time, it fully emancipated and authorial work shifted from manufactories into art studios. The role of professional weavers was assumed by the artists who began to study deeper the authorial production of tapestries, its specifics and the weaving process itself. A key role was also played by the newly created departments in universities, both in the Czech Republic at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague, under the leadership of Antonín Kybal and Alois Fišárek, as well as in Slovakia at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava in the art studio of Peter Matejka.
The first Czechoslovak Gobelins Manufactory was founded by Rudolf Schlattauer in 1908 in Valašské Meziříčí. He was mainly affected by staying in the Nordic countries where he got to know the domestic textile production, but also by his studies at the Academy in Vienna. With his classmate H. Schwaiger, they created the main ideas and carton for tapestries woven in various modifications and color variations during the existence of the workshops. After his death, the workshops entered stagnation for some time until the 50s, which brought about significant changes. A younger generation with a new artistic opinion was in charge. Change also occurred in the artist’s approach to the very creation, carton design. The artists left the illustrative painting transcription of the work into textile technology, and instead they tried to find an effective combination of technology, materials and forms. They adapted their designs to weaving techniques and not vice versa, as before. Each artist approached creation in their own way. The workshops, which for a long time became a platform for artists dedicated to textile production, also take great credit in this development. However, the newly created departments in universities carried an essential meaning in the change of attitude. Under their influence, workshops became places to implement the creative concepts of textile artists and authorial realizations, since Jindřich Vohánka, a graduate of the Kybal School, became the successor of the chairing position in the artistic leadership of the workshops in 1955. Thus the overall nature and focus of the workshops changed, and artists from Slovakia began to attend them. In retrospect, we can say that this was the beginning of a period of tapestry expansion in Czechoslovakia.
The second, only a little younger workshop was founded in 1910 through the initiative of Marie Hoppe-Teinitzerová in Jindřichův Hradec. Teinitzerová graduated from the Higher School of Weaving in Berlin, enriched her studies in Copenhagen, her travels then continuing along the important centers of textile events. She continued in Sweden, England and France, where she visited the famous Gobelins workshops Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins in Paris and Lyon. After initial familiarization by using the traditional technology of woven tapestries abroad, where it had deep historical roots, they brought its manufacture into our conditions. While they both tried to find an adequate term for it, R. Schlattauer did so in the Art Nouveau stylization and M. Teintzerová was rather looking for a link to build on our traditions. Although the artists whom she addressed were primarily painters and only marginally dealt with textiles, she did not focus on the violent interpretation of painting on textiles. For her the very work, its expressiveness and suitability of transposition into the material were important.
The first Slovak artist cooperating with the Jindřichův Hradec workshop was the painter Ľudovít Fulla. M. Teinitzerová started collaborating with him. Fulla’s first known work transferred to the textile material was Madonna with Angels from 1948. Fulla did not intervene with the implementation almost at all, or only performed minor corrections. From the rich production of realizations, these especially included the tapestries Song and Work and Village Wedding, receiving wide acclaim abroad. Song and Work was awarded the gold medal in 1958 at the World’s Fair in Brussels. Fulla’s example was soon followed by another Slovak painter, Janko Alexy. This time it was he who approached Teinitzerová. Tapestries based on Alexy’s designs are characterized by the inspiration of folk literature, especially the Jánošík tradition. The cooperation between Czech tapestry manufactures and Slovak painters, which included L. Mrázová, J. Krén, L. Gandl, M. Klimčák, and E. Zmeták, fully developed in the 50s.