Early American quilts: amazing color and patterns!

Carpenter's Wheel quilt, Mennonite, about 1890. Made by Mrs. Miller in Easton, Pennsylvania.
Carpenter’s Wheel quilt, Mennonite, about 1890. Made by Mrs. Miller in Easton, Pennsylvania.

My eyes opened wide with amazement last weekend, when my docent friend provided another special tour at the San Diego Museum of Art. This time we had a good look at a surprising exhibition of early American quilts from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

These quilts, which date mostly from the 19th century, created in many instances by lone Amish and Mennonite quiltmakers, are so dazzling with brilliant colors and inventive, abstract designs that they seem thoroughly modern, like hung works of art by the greatest 20th century Abstract Expressionists.

I know relatively little about quiltmaking.  All I know is that when I gazed at these vibrant works of art, I felt that I was peering into the inner life of a spiritual people, where joy, memories and dreams are represented with magically combined bits of color. These delights for the eye were created to be a warming family treasure, meant to last for generations.

In this blog post you can see just a few photos of the nearly 50 quilts on display. The craftmanship is intricate. I can’t imagine the many hours of persistent dedication, patience and love a quiltmaker required to create just one of these examples. They lived in a very different time and place. In their world living was more simple, and beauty was quietly formed from single threads.

All of these old quilts were discovered over several decades by collectors Gerald Roy and Paul Pilgrim, who also played an important role in the creation of the The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. Many of these quilts were collected solely for their aesthetic appeal. Paul Pilgrim, now deceased, was also an innovative quiltmaker.

Head to Balboa Park to visit the San Diego Museum of Art and you’ll be astounded by many of these quilts. If you do plan to visit, do so by September 5, 2016, when this very unique exhibition comes to an end.

Quilts and Color from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This special exhibition can be enjoyed at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.
Quilts and Color from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This special exhibition can be enjoyed at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.
Amazing early American quilts on display at the San Diego Museum of Art feature beautifully contrasted colors and abstract designs.
Amazing early American quilts on display at the San Diego Museum of Art feature beautifully contrasted colors and fascinating abstract designs.
Spider Web quilt dazzles the eye. Many of the quilts feature unique visual effects or optical illusions.
Spider Web quilt dazzles the eye. Many of the quilts feature unique visual effects or optical illusions.
Fans quilt, Amish, 1900-1910. Made in Pennsylvania.
Fans quilt, Amish, 1900-1910. Made in Pennsylvania.
Field of Diamonds quilt, about 1860. The design is achieved by creatively combining hexagons.
Field of Diamonds quilt, about 1860. The design is achieved by creatively combining differently colored hexagons.
Close-up photograph of fantastic Sunburst quilt.
Close-up photograph of fantastic, radiant Sunburst quilt.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

To read a few thoughtful stories I’ve written, click Short Stories by Richard.

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Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

9 thoughts on “Early American quilts: amazing color and patterns!”

  1. Absolutely gorgeous. I never did any quilting myself, but can surely appreciate the time, effort and designer’s imagination. Many years ago, Richard, when I lived on Long Island NY, my husband and I traveled with a few other couples into the wonderful world of Autumn gorgeousness: New England. We went to a few different destinations that had many quilts (old and well-preserved) on display that were made a century or more ago – at that time (in the 70’s and 89’s).

    I also want to send my condolences about the shooting of the 2 officers to you and all of San Diego. Just heard the news on TV. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind thoughts about the officers. I just heard the news this morning. One would like to believe such things don’t occur where one lives…but that, sadly, isn’t the case. The shooting took place just a few miles from where I live. San Diego is shaken. My heart goes out to all those who are affected.

      Like

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