Ilse von Randow

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Ilse von Randow
Isle Henneberg

(1901-06-12)12 June 1901
Giessen, Germany
Died18 October 1998(1998-10-18) (aged 97)
Auckland, New Zealand
EducationBerbenich art school in Darmstadt
Known forWeaving
Notable work
Giant weaved curtains at the Auckland Museum
StyleMāori weaving
AwardsEsmonde Kohn Prize (1953)

Ilse Amalie Mathilde von Randow (née Henneberg, 12 June 1901 – 18 October 1998) was a New Zealand weaver.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Ilse von Randow was the daughter of Bruno Paul Eduard Henneberg, university professor, and Helene Mathilde Fritze. Her family was actively involved in artistic and scientific culture. In 1917 von Randow enrolled at the Berbenich art school in Darmstadt, where she studied until 1919 when changes in her family finances led her to quit her studies and returned home, taking up a job as a medical illustrator at Giessen University.[1]

In 1927, von Randow moved to China, to become a laboratory technician at T’ung-Chi university, a German-language institute near Shanghai. She married Elgar Armin von Randow, German vice consul to Shanghai, in 1935: the couple had two sons, and divorced in 1945.[1] Von Randow had been taught to weave by her mother and she turned to these skills to support herself and her children, designing fabrics for local textile companies.[1]

In 1949, when the communists took power in Shanghai in the Shanghai Campaign, von Randow sought refugee status for herself and her sons in New Zealand. They arrived in Auckland in April 1952.[1]

In Auckland, von Randow established herself as a leading figure in modernist craft, exhibiting widely and establishing a studio at the Auckland Art Gallery where she taught younger weavers including Zena Abbott and Ida Lough.[1][2] Her loom had been dismantled and shipped from China to New Zealand, with which she started to create hand woven wall hangings that made her famous.[3]

In the mid 1960s, von Randow became disillusioned with what she saw as an anti-modernist attitude amongst craft practitioners in New Zealand.[1] In 1966, she left for England, settling in West Mersea, where she retired from weaving and took up first batik and later painting.[1]

In 1992, von Randow returned to New Zealand. She died in Auckland on 18 October 1998,[1] and her ashes were buried at Waikumete Cemetery.[4]


Von Randow's major public work was a set of curtains commissioned for the Auckland City Art Gallery in December 1957.[5] Completed in 1958, the curtains were the largest piece of handweaving created in New Zealand at that date.[1] The curtains are now held in the collection of the Auckland Museum.[5][3]

A retrospective of her work was held at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in 1998. She donated her workbooks and weaving samples from the length of her career to the museum.[1]

In 2013, von Randow's curtains were the subject of a project at the Auckland Art Gallery by contemporary New Zealand artist Ruth Buchanan.[6]


  • 1953: Esmonde Kohn Prize for excellence in the applied arts by the Auckland Society of Arts[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lloyd-Jenkins, Douglas. "Ilse Amalie Mathilde von Randow". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  2. ^ "Auckland Art Gallery". Open Buildings. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Blockhouse Bay's Handweaver Fabric Artist". August 2017. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Burial record for Ilse Amalie Matilde Von Randow". Auckland Council. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Ilse von Randow's 'Auckland City Art Gallery Curtains'". Auckland Art Gallery. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  6. ^ "Ruth Buchanan artist project: The Curtain". Auckland Art Gallery. Retrieved 10 January 2016.

Further information[edit]

  • Douglas Lloyd-Jenkins, The textiles of Ilse von Randow, Auckland: Auckland Museum, 1998. ISBN 0473051478
  • Douglas Lloyd-Jenkins, 'Weaving Light: Ilse von Randow and Colin McCahon', Art New Zealand, no 94, Autumn 2000.

External links[edit]