QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT


Friday, September 28, 2018

Oscar Crazy Quilts #2: Portraits

Quilt with a sunflower/daisy border and a portrait of Oscar Wilde.
Collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.

This is a true "Oscar Quilt" depicting the long-haired lecturer
in profile.



Oscar's witty lectures advocated sunflowers and embroidered pillows (according to the New York Times in 1882). Americans responded with Oscar quilts featuring sunflowers, calla lilies and embroidery.




Noting the embroidered portrait of Oscar at the top of this post I wondered how many other crazy quilts contain a picture of the aesthete?

Is this Oscar in his knee breeches and patent leather shoes
with a couple of fans? Note the newspaper in his hand.
The detail is from the star quilt below.

I have no idea where I found this tattered crazy,
which reminded me of the quilt below in far better shape
shown in the last post.

Embroidered quilt by Lydia Pearl Finnell of Harrodsburg, Kentucky
Smithsonian Institution

No Oscar but plenty of aesthetic items, peacocks
and calla lilies.

Detail from Ann Wasserman's blog

When we look at these crazy quilts we tend to think of all males in knee pants as Kate Greenaway's
nostalgic illustrations. The children above probably are related to Greenaway's characters.


But look for this pair of knee breeches and patent leather slippers that
inspired a public relations coup in 1882.


Reading about Oscar Wilde on his American tour (and there is plenty to read) indicates it was a failure, as in this negative article from the Dodge City Kansas Times, calling him a "damphool." The male-centered press carps and carps about low attendance, bad lectures and the irrelevance of his sissy topic, but the evidence in the quilts from the early 1880s might be a better indication of just how successful Oscar Wilde's tour was.

Detail from a quilt in the McMinn County 
Tennessee Living Heritage Museum

UPDATE: Alden O'Brien, curator at the D.A.R. Museum did a little close looking at one of the crazy quilts in their collection and found a similar portrait. Perhaps you could buy a penny square pattern of the celebrity.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Oscar Crazy Quilts #1: The Correct Flowers

Detail of a crazy quilt by Lydia Pearl Finnell, Harrodsburg, Kentucky
Collection of the Smithsonian Institution
Note the three-dimensional Calla lily.

Detail of a crazy quilt by Victorene Parsons Mitchell
Collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Calla lilies are not so common as sunflowers on high-style crazy quilts
from the 1880s.

By Sarah Paul Streeper, Philadelphia
Collection of the Smithsonian Institution

Both flowers were associated with Anglo-Irish celebrity Oscar Wilde who wowed the United States in an 1882 cross country tour.

Illustration from the operetta Patience, satirizing
Wilde and his adoring fans

Knowing the value of a signature wardrobe he wore a Byronic collar (floppy and large) a velvet jacket, breeches and long, wavy hair. He often walked down the street with a single lily in his hand hoping to encounter a reporter.

Napoleon Sarony's series of portraits defined the outrageous
Oscar. You just could not wear tights and knee breeches without
calling attention to yourself in 1882.

By Aimee Hodge
Collection of the Smithsonian Institution

Young Oscar's celebrity tour (he really hadn't done anything yet but dress eccentrically and say some witty things) inspired many aspects of popular culture. Until I read David M. Friedman's book Oscar Wilde and the Invention of Modern Celebrity I had no idea of the impact of the Oscar mania on the crazy quilt.

By Sophia Tilton
Collection of the Smithsonian Institution

Cartoon from Punch ridiculing immigrant Irish
Americans, inspired by Wilde to rise above their station
aesthetically.

Wilde's lecture topic was the aesthetic movement, particularly in decorating, which advocated the sunflower image as perfection.

Aesthetic andirons by Thomas Jeckyll

Now, Oscar's influence on the crazy quilt might all be speculation if crazy quilt experts like Sheila Betterton had not noticed a newspaper feature published in October, 1882 under the title Patch Work:
"This year the rage is for the 'Oscar Crazy Quilt' [requiring] in the centre a sunflower made of either yellow broadcloth, silk or velvet; or else a lily, daisy or pansy."
Center of a quilt at IQSCM # 1997.007.0670


The author was a well-known free-lance writer Annie Wakefield, who went on:
"The sunflower gives the name of 'Oscar,' and heaven knows the patches are 'crazy' enough in shape. Such is fame. Oscar Wilde is immortalized himself in silk quilts, to be handed down to generations yet unborn as heirlooms of what 'grandmama did when she was a girl.' Spirits of former grandmamas, how you must fume...'What is this folly?' "
Annie Wakefield's article is the only reference I've found to Oscar Quilts so far but all those sunflowers indicate she was reporting what she'd seen.


Links to posts on crazy quilts that I've written:

http://barbarabrackman.blogspot.com/2010/09/crazy-quilt-outliers.html

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Vernacular Architecture

Lots of classic neighborhoods out there.

Most of these from online auctions






Totally modern house---minimal.







Row houses



Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Problem with Plaids #2


Quilt #1
By Sarah Lucille Jones, Haughton, Louisiana
Louisiana Project & the Quilt Index

Yesterday I posted these quilts and swatches in a discussion of plaids. Looking at information about the maker and her home gives us insight into regionalism and sources for woven cotton plaids. 

Quilt #2
Augusta Mathilda Hoffman Schimmel, Princeton, Wisconsin

Quilt # 3
From eBay dealer in Southmont, North Carolina, 
Davidson County, not too far from Alamance County, well known for its plaid factory.

Quilt #4
By Elizabeth Salter Smith, Georgia,
Collection of the National Museum of African American Culture & History

Quilt #5
An Acadian cotonade quilt from Louisiana.

Can the style tell us where the quilt was made or where the
fabric was woven?

"Muslin Duck" woven in the Amoskeag Mills in Manchester, New Hampshire
Fabric A


Japanese indigo plaids
Fabric B

Fabric identified as Alamance County, North Carolina.
The bottom plaid is supposedly from the Holt Mill there in 1853. 
Fabric C

Fabric D
Sample book in the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
from Manchester England, 18th century.

It would seem that a woven plaid in isolation, whether of fine yarns or coarse, could have been woven anywhere, anytime. The quilts may offer us more clues to regionalism by subtle characteristics of style.

Online auction, probably early 20th century when plaids and checks were hot.
Don't know a thing about it, except it's cool.