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Trude Guermonprez

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Trude Guermonprez
Photo from 1938, by Paul Guermonprez
Gertrud Emilie Jalowetz

(1910-11-09)9 November 1910
Danzig, German Empire (now Gdańsk, Poland)
Died8 May 1976(1976-05-08) (aged 65)
Other namesGertrud Emilie Jalowetz Guermonprez Elsesser
EducationBurg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design
Known forWeaving
Spouse(s)Paul Guermonprez (m. 1939–1944; death)
John Elsesser (m. 1951–1976; death)
RelativesLisa Jalowetz Aronson (sister),
Boris Aronson (brother in law) Marc Henry Aronson (nephew)
Main building ‘Het Paapje’ with an extension for screen printing

Trude Guermonprez (born Gertrud Emilie Jalowetz; 1910 –1976),[1] was a German-born American textile artist, designer and educator, known for her tapestry landscapes.[2] Her Bauhaus-influenced disciplined abstraction for hand woven textiles greatly contributed to the American craft and fiber art movements of the 1950s, 60s and even into the 70s, particularly during her tenure at the California College of Arts and Crafts.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Gertrud Emilie Jalowetz was born on 9 November 1910 in Danzig, German Empire (modern Gdańsk, Poland).[1][4] Her parents were Austrian and were active in the arts.[4] Her mother was Johanna Jalowetz (née Groag), was a voice teacher and bookbinder and her father was Heinrich Jalowetz was a musicologist and conductor.[3] We can assume that Trude Guermonprez was inspired by there revolutionary artistic surroundings of here parents, while working at Het Paapje designing different textiles.

She learned weaving while living in Halle, Germany, where she attended Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design (School of Fine and Applied Arts in Halle-Saale).[3] Guermonprez studied textiles in Halle under Benita Otte.[3] By 1933, she had received a degree from the Textile Engineering School in Berlin and scholarship to further her studies in Sweden and Finland.[3]


Image A
Image B
Image C
Image D
Image E
Image F

In 1933, she joined the handknitting tapestry and weaving enterprise Het Paapje in Voorschoten, the Netherlands.[citation needed] Guermonprez was working for five years and 7 months at Het Paapje, while she was living in Wassenaar.[citation needed]

World War II[edit]

Her parents visited Het Paapje in 1939. Because they were Jewish they were on escape from National Socialism. They settled in the United States to teach at Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina. She married a Bauhaus trained photographer in 1939, Paul Guermonprez, and they lived together in the Netherlands.[3] Paul Guermonprez was working as a graphic designer and founded his own advertising company Co-op 2, prior to getting drafted for the Dutch army.[5] By 1940, Germany occupied the Netherlands.

Paul Guermonprez died in 1944 by Nazi execution, while fighting in the Dutch resistance.[3][6] Here after Trude Jalowetz consequently named herself Trude Guermonprez.[citation needed] She went into hiding until the end of World War II. This was a very sorrowful time for her.

Black Mountain College[edit]

She moved to the United States in 1947, with the support of Anni Albers.[3] Guermonprez started her teaching career in the 1940s at Black Mountain College. In 1947, Guermonprez began teaching weaving and design at Black Mountain

College while Anni Albers was away on sabbatical,[3] and to be with her mother Johanna Jalowetz and sister Lisa Aronson, who were also at the school.[7] Upon Anni's return, Guermonprez was asked to continue as a full-time faculty member. She remained at Black Mountain College until the dissolution of the weaving program in 1949.[8]

Pond Farm Workshops and San Francisco[edit]

After leaving Black Mountain college, Guermonprez moved West and joined the Pond Farm artist collective run by Bauhaus-trained ceramicist Marguerite Wildenhain in Guerneville, California,[9] and taught at the Pond Farm Workshops. While at Pond Farms she met John Elsesser.

By March 24, 1951, she married John Elsesser (1897–1991), a carpenter and furniture builder.[10][11] The couple moved to San Francisco, living at 810 Clipper Street in an older home her husband had restored.[12][13] By December 1952, she had naturalized in the United States.[14]

California College of the Arts[edit]

In 1954, Guermonprez joined the faculty of California College of the Arts (CCA, formerly California College of Arts and Crafts).[15] By 1960, she served as the Chair of the Crafts Department at CCA, overseeing: metal arts, ceramics, glass blowing, stitchery and textile printing, as well as supervising the weaving curriculum.[15] Her students included Kay Sekimachi Stocksdale, Sheila O'Hara, Ann Wilson, and Jane Lackey, among others.[3][16]

She additionally worked teaching at Oakland College, and at the San Francisco Art Institute.[when?][15][17]


Throughout her career, the majority of her work was private commission.[3] She sometimes worked with her husband John Elsesser who would build furniture, and Guermonprez would create textiles for upholstery.[16]

Guermonprez combined the painterly possibilities of silkscreen with the structural geometry implicit in warp and weft to create fiber wall hangings that are both texturally rich and delicately drawn.[2] She was also known to paint directly on the warp.[16]

Guermonprez had two solo exhibits at the De Young Museum, one in 1964 and one 1970.[18] Guermonprez was awarded the Craftsmanship Medal of the American Institute of Architects (1970) for her "distinguished creative design" in textiles and weaving.[1][19] She was a fellow at the American Craft Council (1975).[1]

Textile work at Het Paapje (1933)[edit]

On the one hand, weaving the sixth hanging for the Enschede Townhall made Trude feel; 'She came at the right moment'.[citation needed] On the other hand, Het Paapje was very happy with her designing textiles and her personality.

Trude lived together with a companion women weaver at an easy walking distance from Het Paapje, along the Papenlaan (the Papistlane) in a typical picturesque, Dutch landscape; with meadows, straight ditches, cows and farmhouses. Fencing lessons for those who were interested, were organized in Het Paapje during the evening. For a feast, a musician with a huge accordion came from Leiden-city to play for the whole ‘Het Paapje population’; including the neighbouring friends farmers.

She made six hangings (of approximate 1.80 m height) together with another companion weaver. These hangings embellish the entrance hall of the in 1933 newly built town hall of Enschede City, until now. The second, the fourth, and the sixth hanging are weaved by Trude. (see image A)

The sixth hanging is sturdy and subtle in detail. The vertical dark centre and next to it the 2 narrow light grey strips are equipped with wide or narrow V signs. Next to these the wide, sturdy red breadths are executed with thin, white horizontals. Under this, marked with a black line, a horizontal breadth is repeated from above; with one white and 2 black V's, they strongly connect above and below. The 4 horizontal Lowest strips (in variations of brown) are held together by 4 white verticals. Trude exposes a rich variation of weaving techniques, forming basic figurative elements in a beautiful composition. (see image B)

In the beginning of her work at Het Paapje, Trude had taken the opportunity to express her roots in a little knitted carped of 132X95X1,5 cm. In the lower part of the carped we walk through a foliage with a nice blue flower. In the upper part we see a yellow house with windows and 'a cock on the roof. This fairytale-like element she probably knew from the Czech Folklore. The colours from the background of the carpet are red, a brownish red, a dark pinkish red and a dark purple red. This carpet is full of speaking contrasts and of nice slow changes of contrasts. It is actual a beauty! (see image C)

This flat woven sample was originally twice as wide; 2 X 22 = 44 cm. The bottom part has an open white, between the red and the blue; this attracts attention. Look further up and you will notice that heavy black strip, with the smaller white above it. Or; the green strip with those 2 black strips above it. Or; that top red strip. Than with a leap over the last black; into the infinite space. (see image D)

In this screenprint with the artichokes, vividly drawn, a very loose and crowded design has been formed, which seems to continue beyond the boundaries of the drawing: into the infinite space. (see image E) ]

This rug is one of the last textiles Trude made at Het Paapje, almost fragile but with a firm but playful design. It is typical for Trude and it is strongly reminiscent of works by Mondriaan and Van der Leck; as if she had recently seen their paintings in Amsterdam. The horizontal blue creates a division from above and below of the extreme length. The horizontal blue is clearly weaving, i.e. a firm horizontal with the trembling zigzag above. Her designs are always of a specific beauty. (see image F)

Death and legacy[edit]

Guermonprez died on 8 May 1976, after a short illness at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco, California.[1]

Guermonprez’s work is included in four Dutch museum collections; she worked at the handweaving enterprise Het Paapje in Voorschoten’, the Netherlands, from 1933 onwards for 5 years and 7 monthes, including The Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Textile museum, Tilburg, The Voorschotens Museum, Voorschoten, The Art museum, The Hague, among others.

Posthumously she had a solo exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California, The Tapestries of Trude Guermonprez (1982).[17][20]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Obituary, Trude Guermonprez". The New York Times. 11 May 1976. p. 36. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b Hall, Julie (1977). Tradition and Change: the New American Craftsman. New York: E.P. Dutton. p. 69. ISBN 0525221956.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Trude Guermonprez". Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Collection. Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Guide to the Papers of Trude Guermonprez, 1947–1976". cdlib.org. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Bauhaus Archive Commemorates Hajo Rose's 100th Anniversary with Exhibition". Artdaily.cc. 16 September 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  6. ^ "Guermonprez, Paul Gustave Sidonie". Traces Of War. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  7. ^ Thomson, Julie J. (2017). Begin to see : the photographers of Black Mountain College. Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Asheville, NC. p. 82. ISBN 9781532325724. OCLC 973560357.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  8. ^ "Trude Guermonprez; Collection of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum". collection.cooperhewitt.org. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  9. ^ "Marguerite Wildenhain". Luther College. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  10. ^ "Trude E Guermonprez in the California, U.S., Marriage Index, 1949-1959". Ancestry.com. California Vital Records, California Department of Health and Welfare, State of California. 24 March 1951.
  11. ^ "Death Notices". Newspapers.com. The San Francisco Examiner. 23 June 1991. p. 27. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  12. ^ "An Artist Who Looms Large...". Newspapers.com. The San Francisco Examiner. 30 July 1964. p. 22. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  13. ^ "California Design 9 (1965)". Issuu. Pasadena Art Museum. p. 139. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  14. ^ "Gertrud Emilie Guermonprez in the U.S., Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project)". Ancestry.com. Selected U.S. Naturalization Records. Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration.
  15. ^ a b c Freedman, Marlene (25 January 1970). "Artist Honored for 'Expressive Weaving'". No. Sunday. Oakland Tribune.
  16. ^ a b c "The Weaver's Weaver: Explorations in Multiple Layers and Three-Dimensional Fiber Art with Kay Sekimachi, (VIII Trude Guermonprez)". content.cdlib.org. Bancroft Library, Regional Oral History Office, University of California, Berkeley. 1996. Retrieved 10 March 2021. This is something I'm really interested in and I must ask Sheila O'Hara, who was student of hers.
  17. ^ a b "Trude Guermonprez". Craft in America. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  18. ^ "Trude Guermonprez (Mrs. John Elsesser) Professor of Textile Arts Chairman Department of Crafts" (PDF). No. CCAC Bulletin, Vol.LXIII No.3 p.75. California College of Arts and Crafts. March 1970. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  19. ^ "Three Californians Win 1970 AIA Award". Newspapers.com. Los Angeles Times. 25 January 1970. p. 136. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  20. ^ "Guermonprez, Trude, 1910-1976". SNAC.

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