Robert Pinner

Carpet scholar and collector

Robert Pinner probably did more than anyone else in the last 30 years to promote the scholarly study of old Oriental carpets. He and his wife, Lesley, started as collectors of rugs in 1968 and were dismayed by the dearth of serious evidence-based studies and the absence of a specialist journal for their publication.

Robert Hans Pinner, metallurgist, publisher and writer: born Hamburg, Germany 11 September 1925; married 1962 Lesley Fletcher (died 1982); died Twickenham, Middlesex 20 November 2004.

Robert Pinner probably did more than anyone else in the last 30 years to promote the scholarly study of old Oriental carpets. He and his wife, Lesley, started as collectors of rugs in 1968 and were dismayed by the dearth of serious evidence-based studies and the absence of a specialist journal for their publication.

In the late 19th century and through the 1930s this important branch of Islamic art had received the attention of great art historians such as Wilhelm von Bode, Friedrich Sarre and Arthur Upham Pope but by the mid-1960s the principal remaining carpet scholar, Kurt Erdmann, was dead. The Victoria and Albert Museum, despite its splendid collection, had published nothing since before the Second World War and the one serious British student, May Beattie, had few opportunities to publish. Enthusiasm for the art form was none the less widespread, especially in the United States, but there, too, apart from publications from the Textile Museum in Washington, little came out in print except books repeating old lore.

In the mid-Seventies Pinner, with the young carpet dealer Michael Franses, set up a small publishing company, Oguz Press, which issued a small number of books including the compendium Turkoman Studies I (1980). More importantly, they planned publication of a new magazine to be named HALI (the Turkish word for carpet), the first issue seeing the light of day in 1978.

This gained worldwide success. Copies were to be seen in the bazaars from Istanbul to Kathmandu as well as museum libraries, but after some years it became too big to manage as a private enterprise and was sold on, eventually to Centaur Communications. Robert Pinner remained very actively involved as Consultant Editor and wrote many major papers and countless smaller contributions for it. Its present total of 137 issues constitutes the prime repository of informed knowledge in the field of Oriental carpets and textiles.

Also in the Seventies Pinner, with others, started up the International Conference on Oriental Carpets (ICOC) and he was its Secretary-General for many years. The first meeting was held in London in 1976 and since then a further nine have taken place in America and Europe, including a second one in London in 1983. This was an annus mirabilis for carpets with associated exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery, the Barbican Gallery and the National Gallery.

Conference papers were afterwards published in Oriental Carpet and Textile Studies, an occasional journal also founded and largely edited by Pinner. The 1983 Conference included a special symposium entitled "Carpets of the Mediterranean Countries, 1400-1600" and the separate volume of OCTS containing the papers has been described as the most important single publication in the field for decades.

An indefatigable worker, Pinner translated into English several German carpet books, most notably Kurt Erdmann's The History of Early Turkish Carpets (1977) and Friedrich Spuhler's Oriental Carpets in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin (1988). He also compiled detailed catalogues for two important collections of Turkmen (Central Asian) carpets which were his and his wife's particular loves: The Rickmers Collection: Turkoman rugs in the Ethnographic Museum Berlin (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 1993), and Between the Black Desert and the Red: Turkmen carpets from the Wiedersperg Collection (Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco, 1999).

Robert Pinner was born in Hamburg of Jewish parents, Walter and Elizabeth Pinner, and the family, including an elder brother, left Germany for England early in 1936 and settled in Birmingham, where Robert attended King Edward's High School for Boys. It would seem that he was a somewhat rebellious schoolboy. When in 1938 he was convicted of throwing acorns in class, the essay he wrote in detention roundly criticised the workings of schools in general and King Edward's in particular; it caused great offence. In a letter (proudly preserved) from the Headmaster to Robert's parents he is said to have "insulted the entire School".

With the outbreak of war in 1939, Robert and the school were evacuated to Repton in Derbyshire and he was billeted on a farm for some years before going on to Aberystwyth University, where he took a general science degree. It was some while after before he found his feet, with several unsuccessful ventures. Practical dexterity did not match his mental agility and in later life he would tell of his unsuccessful work at Allbright and Wilson. He was put to analysing metaphosphates but the results were never the same on a repeat analysis and the firm dispensed with his services.

He eventually found his vocation in the specialist area of metals finishing and he formed a small company to carry out this sort of work. In 1956 he co-authored an important book, Surface Treatment and Finishing of Aluminium and its Alloys, which remained in print until recently. He also published, and largely compiled, a periodical, Metals Finishing Abstracts, continuing to work at this until two or three years ago. He eventually sold his firm to devote himself fully to his carpet activities.

Robert Pinner loved music, above all Beethoven's late quartets. He was also a gourmet (unfortunately tending to gourmand) and was very hospitable, often providing board and lodging at his house in Twickenham to fellow carpet lovers from Europe, Turkey, Russia and the United States. He had taken to chess already at school and in his middle years was an ardent player. His wife and fellow chess player and collector Lesley died aged only 49 in 1982.

John Mills

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick