During our recent trip to Boston I visited the Quilts and Color exhibition currently showing at the Museum of Fine Arts. This exhibition was especially useful for me as it ties in very nicely with my current knitting course module which looks at the use of colour.
The exhibition showcases around 60 quilts from the collectors and artists Paul Pilgrim and Gerald Roy and looks at both the craft of quilting and colour theories used in the design of the pieces.
The collection ranges from early 19th century to the 1940’s, a time when women’s environments were very labour intensive. The collector Gerald Roy quotes: “That first sentence that I use in my collector’s preface—I make my quilts as fast as I can so my children won’t freeze, and as beautiful as I can so my heart won’t break —I think that is the epitome of what quilt making provided for women throughout the history of the nineteenth century. Their worlds were very much labor intensive, and to be able to escape and to produce something by way of producing it for utility, for the family, for warmth, but also having that other very, very special part was extremely important.”
The first quilt we saw was the Carpenters Wheel Quilt by Mrs. Miller made around 1890.
I found this combination of colours really interesting – the photo doesn’t really do it justice though as the orange was much brighter, but the complementary colors of dark red and green seemed to reign it in. What you also don’t get from the photo is the detail in the stitching, if you look really closely in the orange squares you can just about see the flower pattern.
This next piece is ‘The Star of Bethlehem’, there aren’t any details to say who it was made by other than it was made in new England in the 1920’s.
Here is a close up of the centre, the amount of work that must have gone in to produce something like this is incredible:
We spent ages in front of this next quilt ‘A Thousand Pyramids’ (1930), trying to work out of there was any pattern or logic to the placement of the triangles or whether they had been placed randomly.
We never reached a conclusion on that one!
Pamela Parmal the exhibition curator states: Traditionally, most quilt makers used a high contrast, usually white with a dark color, to create their patterns, which could easily be seen. A lot of the quilts in this exhibition do just the opposite; they’ll use similar colors together, or will have no white whatsoever. In fact the majority of the quilts in the show do not have white in them.”
‘Touching Sunbursts’, made in Pennsylvania in 1854 was one of the few quilts on display that used white.
Again, this was one when viewed close up you could see intricate stitching patterns in the white squares, details which get lost when viewed from afar. This is what made the pieces so interesting as on first glance you are drawn in by the colorful and bold overall pattern, but when you get closer you can see the patterns on each individual piece of fabric as well as the stitches that piece it all together.
I didn’t make a note of the origins of this one unfortunately but I was totally captivated by it. It’s almost as if the dark pattern has been printed on top of the finished quilt.
Here is a close up – just look at the number of different individual fabrics that were used to make it!
Another of my favourites was this one – it reminded me of spinning records.
If you look in the red squares you can see the stitching patterns a bit clearer in this one.
Speaking of the collection Gerald Roy quotes “…can you imagine what these women, if they were alive today, would think about their work appearing on the walls of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston? I mean that would be mind-blowing to those ladies. And what a compliment.”
If only the family of Mrs. Ephraim Scott has known her ‘Sunburst Quilt’ (1856) would one day be on display – it was dubbed by them as the ‘ugly quilt’!
This is one of the best exhibitions I have been to for a long time. Each quilt is so intricate and beautifully made it’s impossible not to stop and appreciate the detail in each one. The amount of thought, work and love that went into each one is truly inspirational.
The Diamond Field (1860) – picture taken from https://www.mfa.org/exhibitions/quilts-and-color