Editor's note: The International Quilt Study Center & Museum provided source material to Resource Library for the following article. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the International Quilt Study Center & Museum directly through either this phone number or website:
Chintz Appliqué: From Imitation to Icon
November 22, 2008 - May 17, 2009
The new exhibition of iconic 19th century quilts traces connections of textile fashion, technology and trade in "Chintz Appliqué: From Imitation to Icon" at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. Inspired by the painted and printed cottons of India, famous for their lively beauty and lasting qualities, the stunning colors and artistry of chintz appliqué quilts made them icons in the nineteenth century. They are considered among the most beautifully crafted, vibrantly colored and largest quilts ever made in America. The 21 quilts, circa 1790-1850, presented in the exhibition organized by Curator of Collections Carolyn Ducey, give a glimpse into their makers' lives and society. "Chintz Appliqué: From Imitation to Icon" will be on view from November 22, 2008 through May 17, 2009 at the museum on the East Campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. (right: Chintz Applique Album, 1842, 6 x 5 feet)
Inventive American and European women imitated the look of costly Indian textiles by cutting and applying pieces of chintz to neutral backgrounds. Chintz, polished cotton of verdant foliage and leaves colored in multiple rich hues, was unlike anything Europeans had known. Its lustrous beauty evoked visions of strange cultures and unknown lands. Challenges in international trade, trade imbalances and consumer demands mark the story of the chintz evolution.
Printed cottons came to Europe from India, first as a novelty, used initially as barter in the three-way trade for spices in the late 1500s. The overwhelming popularity of these printed cottons strained the important wool and silk markets in England and France in the final years of the seventeenth century, leading to government bans on Indian imports in Great Britain. At the same time, European manufacturers tried to meet the high demand for printed cotton fabrics by mastering the complex dyeing methods. New mechanized processes led to faster and less expensive cotton spinning, weaving and printing. By the time trade restrictions were relaxed in the mid-1770s, British manufacturers had cornered the market, effectively eliminating India from the trade.
American chintz appliqué quilts were almost exclusively constructed of British printed fabrics. The British maintained tight control of chintz production until the 1830s when the United States became a player in the cotton printing industry. Chintz appliqué quilts were made during a period of marked changes in all aspects of American society. Family-oriented rural communities, in which most of life's necessities were produced by a family's own labor, were altered as families moved to urban centers and took on factory jobs. Manufactured goods became plentiful and affordable and paychecks provided the means to purchase fashionable items. Textile markets boomed and change appeared in the fabric of American lives. This exhibition explores one aspect of that pivotal time in America's history.
The quilts on display come from America's Eastern seaboard, including pieces from the Delaware Bay area of Philadelphia and Baltimore, and others from Virginia and the Carolinas. They are drawn primarily from the center's Ardis and Robert James Collection and the Byron and Sara Rhodes Dillow Collection. Funding for this exhibition and related programming was generously provided by the Robert and Ardis James Foundation. The May 1, 2009 lecture by Rosemary Crill, Senior Curator at Britain's prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum, is the first of the International Lectureship Series supported by the Byron and Sara Rhodes Dillow Excellence Fund. A 64 page, full-color monograph of the exhibition is available for purchase.
(above: Mary Yeardon, Chintz Applique Album, 1848-1849, 6 x 6 feet)
(above: Tree of Life Chintz Applique, ca 1800, 5 x 5 feet)
About the The International Quilt Study Center & Museum
The International Quilt Study Center & Museum was founded in 1997 and is now the home of the largest publicly held quilt collection in the world. The museum opened in its new location in 2008. The privately-funded, glass and brick "green" building houses more than 2,300 quilts, as well as state-of-the-art research and storage space, and custom-crafted galleries. The new facility enhances the center's ability to pursue its mission to collect, preserve, study, exhibit, and promote discovery of quilts and quiltmaking traditions from many cultures, countries, and times.
The International Quilt Study Center is an academic program of the Department of Textiles, Clothing and Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska--Lincoln.
For information on hours and admission fees please visit
the Museum's website.
Resource Library readers may also enjoy:
Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.
Copyright 2008 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.