Amish Quilts · From Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

The Esprit Company, the San Francisco clothing manufacturer, is loaning 16 quilts from its collection, regarded as one of the finest in the world. All of the quilts were made by Amish women from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, from approximately 1900-1925.

The Lancaster County quilts vary from the Midwestern Amish quilts utilization of patterned fabric. These quilts are characterized by bold geometric patterns and rich colors. It is a very sophisticated sensibility, with the actual quilting/stitching forming a subliminal design element on the surface of the quilt. This is the first time quilts of this type will be shown in the region. Julie Silber, curator of the Esprit Collection, will lecture at the opening reception.

The gallery guide includes an essay by Robert Hughes, art critic, Time magazine, excerpted from Amish: The Art of the Quilt, New York, 1990.

No tradition of quiltmaking, it seems, came with the Amish settlers from Europe. There were no known Amish quilts that can be dated earlier than one from 1949, and the next datable one was made sometime around 1860. The aesthetic maturity of their quilts begins well after they were settled as an American minority, and they learned the techniques from other settled Americans, probably their Mennonite neighbors, the (relatively) liberal Pennsylvania Germans. This is no surprise, since although patchwork quilting was certainly done in England and Scotland as early as the 17th century, it was never a major form of Dutch or German folk art — not, certainly, to the extent that it would become one in America.

We wish to express our gratitude to Julie Silber, curator of the Esprit Collection, for her generous assistance with this exhibition. Her insight and knowledge were instrumental to the organization of the show. In addition, we are indebted to the collector of these quilts, Esprit co-founder Doug Tompkins, for making this exhibit possible. His passion and vision have resulted in a truly remarkable collection.