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Milwaukee Art Museum to Show American Quilts: Selections from the Winterthur Collection
Maker unknown, Appliqué counterpane, 1800–25. Cotton, 100 x 92 in. Courtesy, Winterthur, Museum purchase with funds provided by Mr. Samuel Pettit in memory of his wife, Sally Pettit.
MILWAUKEE, WI.- One of the world’s finest collections of early American quilts will be on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum May 22–September 6, 2010. Featuring rare surviving textiles of the late 1700s and early 1800s from Winterthur Museum & Country Estate, Delaware, American Quilts outlines America’s earliest cultural landscape in stunning detail.

American Quilts features more than 40 exquisite quilts whose fabric, design, and stitching combine to provide an extraordinary visual experience. These works of art also present a wealth of new information about the lives of their makers and the world around them. Quilts make political statements, celebrate marriages, and document the early global textile trade. Close examination of these quilts show the frugal recycling of a pair of men’s wool breeches, or the special purchase of fashionable and expensive fabrics. The exhibition includes some of the finest and earliest American printed textiles, a quilted Indian palampore, and a kaleidoscopic sunburst quilt featuring over 6,700 pieces of printed cotton.

“At first, fabric itself was a status symbol reflecting wealth and worldliness,” said Mel Buchanan, assistant curator of 20th-century design. “But the technological advances of the Industrial Revolution and the establishment of an American textile industry enabled affordable fabrics to become more widely available. From this array of materials, more women could produce quilts that served as an important part of their personal, family, and community identity in a constantly changing world.”

American Quilts explores how quilts were made to commemorate life-changing events for individuals, families, or entire communities. The rare quilts on view were passed through generations and, in turn, have become beautiful repositories of history and memory that document women’s political, social, and cultural lives in the early American republic.

Winterthur is the former home of Henry Francis du Pont, one of the 20th century’s most avid antique collectors and horticulturists. Many of the works featured in this exhibition were collected by du Pont himself.

Milwaukee Art Museum | American Quilts | Mel Buchanan |




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