Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Garnhart Group of Quilts: #4 Pattern and Techniques

Crib quilt in a private collection.
Pictured in Stella Rubin's
How to Compare and Value American Quilts

Quilt in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum

Yesterday's post was about common fabrics found in the quilts attributed to Catherine Garnhart. Today's is about common patchwork patterns in the group. We mainly recognize the Garnhart group by the pattern blocks and how they are arranged into the quilts. This basket cut from a grid or plaid print is found in 5 of the quilts.

One of three quilts descending in the family of 
Hannah Thompson Woods

A closeup shows how cleverly the fabrics were cut.

We don't see a lot of conventional applique in these quilts. Cut-out chintz applique is the predominant technique.

Chintz applique: the design is cut from a furnishing fabric
and transferred to another background.

Do note the grape leaf at the bottom in the bird block is a third technique---reverse applique in which the background is cut away to reveal another fabric underneath. 

It's difficult to tell if the eagles are regular old conventional applique
or done in reverse.  I see a shadow indicating brown fabric under the white
 but it may just be a stain.

Eight of the quilts in the group feature eagles, some with patchwork shields...

Three almost identical quilts use pieced striped fabric for the shield.

From the quilt in the Brooklyn Museum. 

Reverse applique is a style signature of the group of quilts:

This quilt loaned to the DAR exhibit Eye on Elegance by the family features
 grape wreaths and a leafy border done in reverse applique.

Reverse applique can be detected in a photo by the slight shadow outlining the leaves here,
evidence of the green fabric under the white.

The shadowing is visible in these two grape leaf wreaths from the quilt donated by the family to the Plains Indian & Pioneer Museum in Oklahoma.

A different leaf found in two quilts

One of the hallmarks in the group is a reverse appliqued
border of trailing vines, cut in simple leaves.

Recognizable even in this poor photo of a quilt Florence Peto
pictured in American Home in 1938

And then there is a more complex reverse appliqued (?) vine border....
looks like it has a shadow under each leaf.

More complicated leaves are found in five of the group.

Piecework plays little part, although most of them have a border of triangles.

Some triangle borders may be pieced but it's possible they are appliqued, dogtooth style with triangles slashed in a strip---one clue to that is the identical fabric in each triangle in the border.

Green dogtooth detail in a basket

We also recognize these quilts by the overall style, the manner of combining blocks and borders.

They have a directionality. You usually have no doubt where the top of the quilt is.

The center larger blocks tend to have a direction and
they are placed in the same plane.

I analyzed the sets.

The style is so distinctive we think we recognize one 
in an 1845 fair display in New York City.

See the whole watercolor of the quilt display at the City Museum of New York.

And Mary Turley Robinson definitely captured one in her print of Nantucket arts in 1938. 

A diagram, in case you are looking for an applique challenge.

Tomorrow: Re-examining assumptions


  1. Wow! That 1845 painting of the Annual Fair of American Institute at Niblo's Garden is amazing in its detail! Have you ever seen other paintings of hanging quilts from other 1800s fairs? I'd love to have a print of that one. I so appreciate the extent of the detailed history behind the Garnhart quilt(s) that you have shared in your last few posts. A couple of years ago I included elements from the reproduction fabric made to honor the Garnhart quilt in an eagle quilt I made. Love having all this history to now add to its file. A photo of my eagle quilt using some of that repro fabric appears in Susan E. Wildemuth's book "Eagle Motifs in America: Decade Art Series — 1770 to present on page 14-15.

  2. Barb, I also meant to ask you how you came upon this 1845 painting? What an exciting discovery in and of itself.

  3. Karen, I found it in the files of the Museum of the City of New York. See the link

  4. I guess my real question really is...did you just do a word search of "quilt" within their website? Or had someone clued you in to its presence there? I am always curious how people stumble onto things that seem so out of the ordinary to me.....like a painting of an 1845 fair that happen to contain hanging quilts. Thanks, Barb.