Ulla Schumacher-Percy was a textile artist who created among other things the Adelcrantzväven. She also made various works using ryas, tapestries, embroideries, fabric prints and colour lithographs.
Ulla Schumacher-Percy was born on 20 January 1918 in Stockholm. She was the daughter of Edith Schumacher, née Fogelberg and Gustaf Schumacher, a director. She had two older siblings. With the aim of becoming a painter, Ulla Schumacher-Percy attended the art schools Pernbys målarskola and then Otte Skölds målarskola in 1936–1937. She realised that she wanted to work in textiles and started studying at Tekniska skolan (now Konstfack) in 1938. After completing her education in 1941, she was active in homecrafts. There she designed embroidery patterns among other things. She also started her own company, Lintråden, in her home, the old boatman’s cottage in Tullinge.
In 1945, Ulla Schumacher-Percy married Paul Carlsson-Percy, who was an architect and the son of the artist and designer Arthur Percy. The couple soon used only the surname Percy. They had three children: Tomas, Anne and Johannes, called Hannes. They had an atelier built in the boatman’s cottage, designed by Paul Percy. The marriage lasted until the end of 1956, but Ulla Schumacher-Percy lived and worked in the atelier for the rest of her life. From 1949 onwards she worked as a free artist. Since 1951, she had completed a number of public works like carpets, tapestries and theatre curtains but it was not until 1957 that she gathered the courage to exhibit her works. Then she showed rag rugs at Samlaren in connection with Scandinavian Design Cavalcade. The year after, she participated in the crafts association Slöjdföreningen’s great exhibition in Stockholm with a geometrically patterned pile rug in vivacious colours: bright blue and mauve.
The National Museum showed decorative textile art in 1961 to which Ulla Schumacher-Percy contributed with “exquisite impressionist” embroideries. The next exhibition was at Lilla Paviljongen and shared with among others Madeleine Pyk, Siri Derkert and Walter Huber. For several years, he and Ulla Schumacher-Percy lived together and in a number of assignments she was assisted by him. She often found inspiration for her rugs in nature and when she showed nine new rugs at the Nordiska Kompaniet art hall in 1963 she had received permission to use Dr Bertel Bager’s photos. Harry Martinson had given them poetic names like Skrovelbjörken and Porsmyren.
In the mid-1960s, Ulla Schumacher was invited to show her art at the Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg. She showed both old and new works. Among others, the National Museum had lent them the rug Eldslågan in which the red hues glow and burn against saturated mauve and blue. New works were textile collages, embroideries and “finnvävar” (double cloths). She had also two new rugs with wool yarn. At Historiska museet in Stockholm, she exhibited seven embroidery paraphrases inspired by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí’s fantastic creations. These works were also shown at exhibitions in Norway, in Trondheim, Bergen and Oslo. Ulla Schumacher-Percy received two scholarships from Statens Konstråd and one from the Stockholm county council.
After having worked with intensive colours, Ulla Schumacher-Percy had an exhibition in 1971 at Konstnärshuset. There she kept to a black and white scale with elements of golden lustre. She often worked at that time in suites and called this one Människolandskap. Ulla Schumacher loved working with yarn and she wove rapidly and intensively. She worked for a period as a teacher at Sätergläntan, the association Handarbetets Vänners Vävskola, at Insjön. She was seen as a positive, lively, warm and loyal person who often opened her home for conversations on art and the important questions of life. When Riksbanken announced a competition for a large wall tapestry as a decoration for its new building, Ulla Schumacher-Percy was the only woman artist in both rounds of the competition, however without success. With two male colleagues, she showed the suite Galjonsfigurer at Konstnärshuset. To stimulate more senses, she had woven in tar-smelling strings in the works. She later participated with Maria Adlercreutz, Elisabet Hasselberg-Olsson, Maria Hillfon and Sandra Ikse-Bergman in an exhibition produced by Svenska Institutet to be shown in Mexico, Cuba and Canada.
In the beginning of the 1980s, Ulla Schumacher-Percy composed the work she would be most known for, the Adelcrantzväven, that is five square metres in size and currently hangs in one of the government buildings in Stockholm. It consists of three sections: the Adelcrantz palace in blue with the architect Carl Fredric himself in the foreground; his creation Drottningholmsteatern’s stage with a fantasy-stimulating background; and finally the theatre’s classical façade. The motifs are framed by Chinese-patterned edging. The assignment came from Statens Konstråd and instead of weaving it herself, Ulla Schumacher-Percy hired six weavers from Handarbetets Vänner to do the work. They worked with the artist’s sketches under the flax warp in 1979–1981 and she herself supervised the weaving. For the first time she had chosen to use the weaving method HV-technique, developed and named after Handarbetets Vänner. The technique made it possible to see the work from both the front and the back and to let the light through. The sparse warps are visible which is an important element in the weave. Before it arrived at its final destination, it was shown at Handarbetets Vänner and in Paris.
With Kaisa Melanton and Maria Triller, Ulla Schumacher-Percy also participated in the idea competition for the background wall in the Parliament building’s plenary. Elisabet Hasselberg-Olsson’s Minnet av ett landskap won however. During the 1980s, visitors to the Saltsjö atelier were able to study Ulla Schumacher-Percy’s works from the two preceding decades. She showed among others På havets botten, a motif from the coast of the island Öland in the Baltic. She often stayed at Vickleby on Öland.
Ulla Schumacher-Percy was awarded the Prins Eugen medal in 1981 and three years later, she had a retrospective exhibition at Waldemarsudde. There she exhibited rugs, woven pictures, “wildly free” embroideries, sketches and also miniatures. With her art, she participated in a TV programme with her name in 1986. When Statens Konstråd celebrated its fiftieth jubilee, it organised an exhibition of the country’s art collections, for example an enlarged sketch for the Adelcrantzväven.
In 1996, Ulla Schumacher-Percy had an exhibition entitled Moder Gud sviten. In it, she showed a series of small concentrated wall tapestries of a mother’s suffering and grief after losing a beloved son. She was able to put herself in the position of having experienced those feelings since her own son Hannes had died at the age of only 30 years old in 1984. The exhibition was shown first at the Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg and later at Millesgården in Stockholm. At Botkyrka konsthall she had a retrospective exhibition with free wall tapestries and at Galleri Salem she had an exhibition with watercolours, ink drawings and a graphic art series in 1998.
Ulla Schumacher-Percy is represented at the National Museum, the Röhsska Museum, Kulturen in Lund, Museet in Trondheim in Norway, the Värmland Museum and other institutions. She created public decorative art for churches, hospitals, embassies, libraries and other public buildings.
Ulla Schumacher-Percy died on 30 June 2007 at 89 years of age. She has her final resting place in Vickleby Cemetery where her son Hannes is also at rest.