Monday, May 14, 2018

Index of American Design and Fabric

I have been looking through the amazing watercolors done during the Great Depression by artists hired by the WPA for the Index of American Design. I knew they'd painted quilts...

and many folk arts.

In the quilt references are paintings of cotton prints
like this one by Elbert Mowry.

Mowry was photographed painting the early quilt.

Here is Ellen Duncan's rendering of a wholecloth quilt on a couch
with a detail of the stripe.

By Catherine Fowler

But then I realized the artists were assigned to paint interesting fabric swatches too. I recognized the fabric in Fowler's painting as a fake patchwork print from about 1875.

A  photograph

Miria Lowry's chintz painting was quite familiar

It's on a bookcover that is on my desk.

Catharine Fowler painted a popular pillar print.

See a post here:

Daniel Fletcher painted a wholecloth quilt of this eagle print

Esther Hansen's Mexican War commemorative

like this piece sold at Skinner Auctions

My favorite may be the yellow stripe with a bolt label
that says Fall River Fast Cottons (?)

Here's the home page of the National Gallery of Art with the images online.
Not to overwhelm you---but there are 18,169 images up there from the Index of American Design.


  1. Thanks for your post on the 'ridiculously popular chintz'/Index of American Design and Fabric.
    Fun details, it seems it was all the rage.

  2. I also love the yellow stripe fabric, especially with the corner turned over to show the label.

    I'm surprised the c. 1875 cheater print with the cats and dogs hasn't been reproduced. I believe there's a similar print with three or four cats in a basket, too.

  3. Is the Sampler stenciled "Salinda W. Rupp", 88" square known presently as the Nearly Insane Quilt? Looks a lot like the one on the cover of that book. Interesting post.