Barbro Nilsson (1899-1983) was a Swedish textile and kilim artist. She was the daughter of the artist Emma Lundberg, wife to sculptor Robert Nilsson and mother to photographer Pål-Nils Nilsson.
Already at the age of 14 Nilsson began her flat weave training at Johanna Brunssons weaving school in Stockholm. She received a thorough technical and artistic training and the school’s large stock of yarn sparked her interest in colour.
During her career, Nilsson managed to combine teaching and her own creativity. Nilsson’s multifaceted life’s work can be drawn against the backdrop of the last century’s flourishing development within textile art.
She was the main textile teacher at Konstfack, University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm during the years 1947-1957. During this time she was responsible for the education of what came to be an important generation of textile artists and kilim designers. Some of these, Marianne Richter, Ann-Mari Forsberg and Barbro Sprinchorn were tied to the studio in Båstad where they have contributed with independent artistic efforts.
Among Nilsson’s early and typical works can be noted a number of rugs and wall hangings in tapestry technique. When Nilsson chooses other motifs for her kilims than the sea and the beach she points the movement diagonally out and up. When she developed the kilim rug Snäckorna, The Shells, she added a new weaving technique in the Märta Måås-Fjetterström weaving workshop. You find The Shells in The National Museum in Stockholm and it is one of the most weaved rugs of Barbro Nilsson.
Båstad and MMF AB
After the passing of Märta Måås-Fjetterström Nilsson took over the artistic leadership for her renowned studio and workshop in Båstad producing kilims and textile for almost 30 years. This gave her the possibility to pass the artistic heritage from her predecessor, while simultaneously developing a her own style.
As opposed to Måås-Fjetterström Nilsson was a trained technician and textile art teacher, something which enabled fruitful collaborations with a number of artists. In these collaborations Nilsson took the role as a creative interpreter. Nilsson’s technically oriented training gave her invaluable knowledge regarding the transfer of an idea of an image to a pattern model. This was one of the most important tasks at the studio in Båstad. To inspire the weavers and give them the largest possible artistic freedom, she painted the compositions in live size instead of using numbered sketches.
Nilsson’s technical knowledge and her developed sense of colour was important when collaborating with the artists. Her career as a textile artist started already in 1928 with a tapestry composed by Bertil Damm for M/S Kungsholm. She participated in a competition regarding the artistic decorations for the concert hall in Gothenburg together with her husband. She did not win but was nevertheless commissioned to create the tapestry from the winning sketch by the artist X:et. When shown the final work, X:et pointed out that he as a painter would not have been able to create that kind of lustre and depth. This piece is considered Nilsson’s breakthrough and she was commissioned for a number of similar works by artists.
A very important part of Nilsson’s work consists of a number of textile compositions created for public spaces. Here her ability of coloristic collaboration with the surrounding is especially well used. Barbro created the tapestry rug Tånga for The Helsingborg Exhibition 1955, H55. It was later added in nearly twenty different colourways. Nilsson created monumental hanging tapestries and she has produced church textiles for over forty Swedish churches. Some examples are the Gustaf Adolf Church in Helsingborg, in Stockholm the Markus church, Kungsholms church and Storkyrkan next to the royal castle.
Nilsson’s sources of inspiration was nature in the south of Sweden near Öresund where she lived. An old smithy was transformed into a weaving mill. Beaches, water and waves are recurring patterns, at the same time modern and timeless.
Barbro’s rugs are signed with her signature, BN, in the right hand corner of the kilim rug, and with the signature of the Märta Måås-Fjetterström weaving studio, AB MMF, in the left hand corner (see Märta Måås-Fjetterström for more info).