Ingrid Dessau was one of Sweden’s most prominent textile artists.
Ingrid Dessau was born in Svalöv in Scania in 1923. She was the only child of Stina and Victor Peterson. She came from a bourgeois background where her mother was a housewife who had cultural interests. Her father worked as the boss and retail head of Svalöv växtförädlingsanstalt (plant breeding institution). Ingrid Dessau revealed a talent for painting and drawing from an early age. She completed her basic education and at the age of 16 attended a summer weaving-course at Fridhem college in Svalöv. She had no intention of continuing her highschool education and instead she applied to the Tekniska skola– later known as Konstfack (school of art and design) – in Stockholm. She was accepted in 1939 and intended to qualify as a drawing-instructor.
Having graduated from the Tekniska skola she served as apprentice to the textile artist Märta Måås-Fjetterström. Her former teacher Barbro Nilsson was also working there as an artistic advisor. Ingrid Dessau was then hired as a designer for Kristianstad county local handicraft association. She spent three years there designing rugs, cloths, and embroidered works.
Ingrid Dessau had become acquainted with her future husband, Kaj Dessau, a Dane who was working as a manager of George Jensen Inc. Kaj Dessau’s work commitments took the couple to the USA in 1948 and they remained there for five years. At that time Ingrid Dessau had ceased her own artistic work in order to be a housewife. The couple travelled around the USA together, but also visited Mexico, and these journeys inspired Ingrid Dessau’s textile art. She was awarded a stipend from the Svenska Slöjdförening (Swedish handicrafts association) which enabled her to undertake further study trips during 1947-1948. The marriage ended in 1955, but it was not long before Ingrid Dessau remarried, to Knut Hadrup.
Once she had returned to Sweden Ingrid Dessau also returned to her work as a freelancer for Kristianstad county Hemslöjdsförening. Later she also worked with other handicraft associations in southern Sweden. Her major breakthrough came in 1953 when she held an exhibition together with the ceramist Signe Persson-Melin at Galleri Moderne in Stockholm. This exhibition had been planned for a long time with Kaj Dessau as administrator and promoter. After the exhibition in 1954 Kasthalls Mattor and Golv AB in Kinna invited Ingrid Dessau to become a designer for them. On their behalf she was to produce ten rugs every year, in five colour combinations, thus totalling 50 rugs. This was a part-time job which meant that she could also continue her work as a freelancer. It was largely Ingrid Dessau’s rugs which made her well-known. In 1955 she participated in the H55 exhibition held in Helsingborg and her textiles were very well-received. That year she was also the first textile designer to be awarded the prestigious Lunning prize.
Ingrid Dessau continued to work for Kasthalls until 1978 and the rugs she produced made that company world famous. Alongside her work for Kasthalls she also, from 1970 onwards, worked at Kinnasand where she was part of a design team. There she mainly worked on curtains, and other types of interior decorating textiles. She worked at Kinnasand until she retired in 1984. After that she continued to freelance for the company. One of her biggest commissions was to furnish the renovated parliament buildings in the early 1980s, where she was responsible for the textile element. In 1987 she created a new design for tablecloths and napkins for use at the Nobel prize dinner.
Ingrid Dessau died in Malmö in 2000.