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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)


Related Programs

Exhibition Preview Party -- Members Only
Friday, November 21, 2008, 5:30 ­ 7:00 pm, call 402-472-6549 by November 14 to pre-register.
Chintz Appliqué Demonstrations, Free with admission
Saturdays, November 22, 2008 and February 28, 2009, 10:00 am -1:00 pm
First Friday Curator Chintz Chat, FREE admission
Friday, December 5, 2008, 5:00 -7:00 pm
Tuesday Talks -- Chintz topics, Free with admission
Tuesdays, January 13, 2009 and March 17, 2009, Noon
Chintz Appliqué Workshop, led by NQA-certified teacher Kriss Moulds, registration required
Saturdays, March 7, 14, and 21, 2009, 10:30 am -12:30 pm
Chintz Family Day, activities for the whole family based on the exhibition, Free with admission
Saturday, March 21, 2009 10:00 am -1:00 pm
Lecture "Chintz: Indian Textiles for the West" by Rosemary Crill, Senior Curator in the Asian department at the Victoria and Albert Museum in Great Britain, Free admission, underwritten by the Byron and Sara Rhodes Dillow Excellence Fund
Friday, May 1, 2009, 5:30 pm
Guided Tours
Public guided tours of Chintz Appliqué: From Imitation to Icon are available on Wednesdays at 11:00 am and Saturdays at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. These tours are free with admission. Reserved guided tours for groups of 10 or more are available during public hours. Please schedule at least four weeks in advance. Call 402-472-6579 or email iqsc-tours@unlnotes.unl.edu. Audio guides of the exhibition are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Fee.


(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.

rev. 12/22/08

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