NEW YORK — British surgeon-turned-weaver Peter Collingwood (1922-2008) was so passionate about elevating weaving from handicrafts to legitimate art, he pushed its boundaries. Taking apart looms and reassembling them in new ways, he reimagined the process by which textiles could be made, and became one of Britain’s foremost weavers.
Collingwood is renowned for his signature macrogauze technique, which allowed him to combine linen threads and steel rods in a variety of directions and freed him to produce works no previous weaver was equipped to make. In 2018, Selvedge magazine profiled the artist, stating, “As a young boy, Collingwood wanted to know how everything worked, and as a mature weaver he fearlessly broke looms into parts and rebuilt them, notably creating a system of moveable rigid heddles that he used to weave graphically dramatic ‘macrogauze’ wall hangings.”
He bought his first loom in 1950 and apprenticed with well-known hand-loom weaver Ethel Mairet. Within two years, he had set up his own studio in Highgate, a London suburb, weaving rugs by hand. Today, Collingwood’s mid-century rugs realize a few hundred dollars at auction, but collectors fight most fiercely for his circa-1960s and later wall hangings made with the macrogauze technique. He is said to have created his first macrogauze in 1964, combining steel and brass with linen threadwork. Subsequent versions are represented in several major museums, including the Tate Modern and the V&A in London.
Most reliable sources online refer to his innovative works as “macrogauze,” though a few use the term “microgauze” instead. He also codified a formula for naming his wall hangings: Their titles feature a letter M followed by an identifying series of numbers that likely refers to when they were made. The highest price for a Collingwood work on the LiveAuctioneers database belongs to an M.74 No.12 wall hanging that achieved $23,023 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2022 at Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers. In its catalog description, Sworders explained, “his wall hangings use the traditional craft to create visual abstraction and are admired worldwide.” This artwork, made of steel and linen, measures nearly 60in tall.
Collingwood primarily used steel for support rods in his wall hangings, but some incorporated brass or aluminum, as he liked to experiment with materials. His macrogauze wall hanging dubbed M.22 No.41 features black linen and stainless steel and is massive, measuring more than 90in tall. Comprising three rows of three abstracted geometric sections set amid an openwork design, it brought $10,360 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2022 at Lyon & Turnbull.
Most of his works feature a mix of diagonal and diamond-shaped designs in the warping of their threads (In weaving, the warp is the yarns or threads that are strung vertically on the loom, and which span the length of the finished piece; the warp is put in place before introducing the weft, which comprises the yarns or threads that are woven horizontally). A few combine traditional weaving techniques, such as in a pair of macrogauze wall hangings — M.84 X No.1 and M.84 No.257 — that have mostly tightly-woven vertical warps. Together they sold for $7,482 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2021, also at Lyon & Turnbull.
Elaborate Collingwood wall hangings bring decent prices. A case in point is his M.92 No. 22, made of several colors of intricately-woven linen and steel, which realized $4,835 plus the buyer’s premium in July 2022 at Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers. This work, in particular, is compelling for its artistry and sense of rhythm.
As all of Collingwood’s wall hangings were handwoven, no two are exactly alike. Each can be appreciated on its own merits, and those fortunate enough to view several displayed together can better understand his techniques and evolving style.
A circa-1967 macrogauze weaving, 73in tall and impressed M.3 D6/No. 2, exemplifies his skill at weaving warps that cross each other as well as angle sideways. The work, which he fashioned from aluminum and black and natural-colored linen thread, went for $3,000 plus the buyer’s premium in March 2022 at Billings.
Given that the Midcentury Modern aesthetic has yet to lose favor in the marketplace, it’s a little surprising that Peter Collingwood’s wall hangings are still affordable. It’s been a while since he was the subject of a major museum exhibition, but if that were to change, prices for his works would surely climb.