In his 1937 publication British Textile Designers Today H G Hayes Marshall described Hans Aufseeser (later Tisdall) as a designer ‘whose careful attention to detail and his real ability to design for any technique has placed him in the front rank of British Designers for Industry’.
Tisdall was born Hans John Knox Aufseeser in Munich to an Anglo-Irish mother and a German father, Ernst Aufseeser (an artist and designer). He adopted his mother’s maiden name Tisdall in the 1940s. He studied at The Academy of Fine Art, Munich in 1928 and was apprenticed to the sculptor Moisey Keegan. He lived in Paris and Ascona, Switzerland before settling in London in 1930. He began his professional life in Britain working for an advertising agency – but he soon abandoned this to concentrate on a career as a painter. However, the economic climate of the thirties meant he had to diversify and became well known during the decade as a textile designer producing patterns for some of the best firms of the day – including Warner & Sons, Edinburgh Weavers, Donald Brothers and Allan Walton. Hayes Marshall describes how he was the only designer submitting his patterns on rice paper which allowed a prospective buyer to appreciate the design when gathered up.
His work was extremely wide-ranging and he also worked as a muralist, including on a commission with Edward Bawden and John Armstrong for the Michael Rachlis’ International Building Club in Park Lane just before the outbreak of the war. His large scale work was further developed in 3D form in 1951 when he designed plaster centaurs for the Festival of Britain Pleasure Gardens at Battersea in 1951, alongside a cockerel mural . He revisited the cockerel motif in this 1957 design for Edinburgh Weavers.
In 1941 he married Isabel Gallegos the daughter of a Spanish painter who worked as a stylist for Edinburgh Weavers. She set up her own firm Tamesa Fabrics in 1964 and Hans provided many of the designs.
His textile patterns are often large in scale and owe much to his experience as a mural painter – such as his design ‘Pheasant Moon’ for Edinburgh Weavers, 1960. This design has an enormous repeat (220cm).
The large scale patterns he designed for Edinburgh Weavers are particularly effective and were perfectly suited for the prevailing fashion in architecture for floor to ceiling windows.
Tisdall was an extremely versatile designer and was also well known for his graphic work, particularly book jackets.
Like many artist-designers of his generation he worked across a number of design disciplines, and added twelve large scale designs for the Edinburgh Tapestry Company between 1959 and 1974 to his expanding catalogue . He is pictured here checking the colours of his tapestry ‘Space’.
As well as continuing to practice as a painter he also taught at the Central School of Arts and Crafts between 1948 and 1975 initially in textiles and later in painting.
Marshall, HG Hayes (1939) British Textile Designers Today (Leigh-on-Sea, F Lewis Ltd)
Jackson, Lesley (2012) Alastair Morton and Edinburgh Weavers (London, V&A Publishing)
Powers, Alan – (7.2.1997) ‘Obituary of Hans Tisdall’, Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/obituary-hans-tisdall-5581928.html
Robertson, Bryan (1990) Hans Tisdall: Paintings 1960-1997, (London, Albermarle Gallery)
Schoeser, Mary (1992) Influential Europeans in British Craft and Design, (London, Crafts Council)