Textile Art & Fashion

James Koehler (American, 1952–2011), Chief Blanket with Blocks, designed 1991, woven 2002; number 8 in an edition of 8. Hand-dyed wool; cotton.

James Koehler (American, 1952–2011), Chief Blanket with Blocks, designed 1991, woven 2002; number 8 in an edition of 8. Hand-dyed wool; cotton. Denver Art Museum Neusteter Textile Collection: Funds by exchange from Claudia H. de Osborne and Louise Vigoda, 2002.117. © The Estate of James Koehler

“Color, structure, and form are the focus of my approach to design,” said the artist. Koehler here pays tribute to the dynamic stripes of the Navajo Chief Blanket and the Diamond in the Square pattern of Lancaster Amish quilts, but translates and unites these sources into his own distinctive composition.

Woman’s Coat

Central Europe

Inscribed, and dated 1900

Sheepskin with silk embroidery and tassels, leather appliqué, and stamping

The Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Frederic Douglas, 1949.27

For centuries, an embroidered sheepskin cape or coat was a highly coveted and extremely expensive necessity in areas of current-day Hungary and Romania. These cherished garments were the result of a collaborative effort among a number of specialists: a master who created the pattern and planned the construction, apprentices who performed the lengthily preparation of the skins, and women who embroidered the individual pieces before they were assembled. Although there are regional differences, a symmetrical arrangement of stylized polychrome floral motifs—and occasionally creatures—as well as specific abstracted appliquéd leather shapes was preferred and shown against a light or white background.

Charlotte Jane Whitehill (American. 1866-1964)

Indiana Wreath

1930

Cotton: appliqued, stuffed, quilted and embroidered

The Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Charlotte Jane Whitehill, 1955.56

In 1929, at the age of sixty-three, Charlotte Jane Cline Whitehill (1866-1964) began to make the appliqué quilts for which she became famous. Born in Wisconsin, Whitehill moved to Kansas with her family in her late teens. Although she had learned to make pieced quilts in her youth, it was as a widow and as a diversion from her job as a district manager for an insurance company that she turned to appliqué and her talent blossomed. At the time she was living in Emporia, Kansas, and was part of an exceptional community of quiltmakers. They assiduously studied earlier pieces, copying as well as adapting family heirlooms and museum examples, subsequently preserving these patterns for posterity. Several quilters – notably Rose Good Kretsinger and Whitehill – developed new patterns as well. Whitehill moved to Denver in 1940, where she resided until her death.

Named one of the one hundred best quilts of the twentieth century, Indiana Wreath was Whitehill’s second quilt. An example made in 1858 by Elizabeth J. Hart and illustrated and extolled in 1915 by Marie Webster in her influential book Quilts: Their Story and How to Make Them, was the basis for copies made by several quiltmakers in Emporia. As with all her quilts, Whitehill appliquéd the pattern, but then had someone else, whose name, unfortunately, remains unknown, do the quilting.

Imperial Manchu Man’s Semiformal Court Robe with Twelve Symbols of Sovereignty

China, Qing Dynasty

1850-1875

Woven silk and metal thread tapestry

Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of James P. Grant and Betty Grant Austin, 1977.196

In 1759, the emperor added the twelve Chinese symbols of ancient imperial authority to his Manchu court robes, acknowledging the importance of the two-millennium-old images. Related to the sacral duties of the Son of Heaven, the twelve symbols also represent the emperor’s wide-reaching power and Confucian values associated with a worthy ruler. Other auspicious symbols on the robe—the round red wanshou, the swastika-fret pattern and bats—wish great longevity and happiness. The red double-joy symbol, often found on wedding garments, is unusual on an official robe.

Lia Cook (American, born 1941)

Face Maze: Tera

2007

Woven cotton and rayon

Neusteter Textile Collection: Funds from various donors, by exchange

2011.279

Fascinated by the way viewers respond differently to photographic images and textured weavings, Cook blends the two media. From a distance, the image of her niece is clearly visible, but as one approaches, it gradually dissolves into a woven maze. The artist continuously experiments with new technologies and ways to translate her images, simultaneously seeking to make the structure visible and physically felt while transforming the image into a physical object.

Myrtle M. Fortner (American, 1880–1966)

The Matterhorn

1934

Hand pieced and appliquéd cotton; hand quilted; machine stitched backing.

The Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Melvin Dorsett, 1967.89

Myrtle Fortner based this quilt on her pastel drawing inspired by postcards from her niece's trip to Switzerland. She sought out suitably colored fabrics from various sources over many years, dyeing them herself when necessary. The 9,135 three-quarter-inch squares combine physically and optically to create a picture of the mountain, lodge, trees, and stream. The lines formed by her quilting stitches act like brushstrokes to render and enhance forms while introducing a sense of movement.

Anna Eliza Pratt Perrine (American, 1823—1895)

Album Quilt

Delaware River Valley (Pennsylvania/New Jersey)

Glazed block- and roller-printed cotton appliqué (broderie perse), silk embroidery, ink drawings and inscriptions on cotton; cotton fringe

Neusteter Textile Collection: Funds from Nancy Lake Benson and Bruce Benson and the Anonymous Acquisition Challenge Grant

1985.300

To create the floral arrangements, the maker cut flowers from glazed printed cottons called chintz, assembled them into the desired design, and carefully stitched them down. The expensive yardage and time necessary to complete such a quilt limited this technique to ladies of means and leisure. Smaller blossoms and fine details are drawn with pen and ink or embroidered, while signatures are signed, stamped, or stenciled. These floral forget-me-nots reminded the owner of family and friends.

The dates on this quilt range from after Anna Eliza Pratt’s 1842 marriage to Lewis Perrine to after the birth of their daughter, Mary, in 1843. This quilt relates in style and technique to a distinct group made in Philadelphia and New Jersey in the 1840s. Some of the same names inscribed on this quilt also appear on a quilt in the DAR Museum, Washington, D. C., and another belonging to the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska.

J. M. Davidson (American, active 1836-1850)

Coverlet

Woven wool and cotton

Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Miss Mary Willsea

1962.37

From signed and dated coverlets we know that Davidson was a "fancy weaver" in New York between 1836 and 1850. This coverlet made for Charlotte Seeley combines a field pattern of lily wreaths and floral motifs with a patriotic border: set under an arc of stars, an array of spread-winged eagles clutch arrows in their claws and stand between fruiting trees and weeping willows.

Bedcover (colcha) or Hanging

Mexico

1775-1825

Wool and cotton crewel embroidery on wool

Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of the Frederic H. Douglas Collection

1956.54

Mexico was a cultural crossroads where design motifs from Europe and Asia, primarily China via the Philippines, mingled with local styles and preferences. The central allegorical figure of Fame is depicted in European terms: she holds two trumpets and, depending on whether she is spreading good or bad reports, blows the right- or left-hand trumpet. The serrated leaves and trees probably reflect Near Eastern design influence, while the peonies, flowers, and foliage are inspired by Far Eastern examples.

Mantle

Paracas, Peru

c. 100 BC - AD 200

Cotton fabric with camelid fiber embroidery (probably alpaca)

Funds from Alvin & Geraldine Cohen, Mr. & Mrs. Morris A. Long, Tom & Noël Congdon, Mr. & Mrs. Samuel Gary, Hannah Levy, Jan & Frederick R. Mayer, Myron & Louann Miller, Neusteter Institute Fund, Margaret Powers, Mrs. Charles Rosenbaum, Mr. & Mrs. Irving Shwayder, Mr. & Mrs. Edward M. Strauss, Mr. & Mrs. Taplin and the Volunteer Endowment Fund, 1980.44

Paracas block color embroideries were created by groups of individuals. A master designer selected the design layout and color combinations, which were often extremely complex. After the motif outlines were stitched by expert embroiderers, the colors could be filled in by less experienced hands.

Flemish designer, active late 1500s - early 1600s

Military Scenes

Woven at an unknown Brussels atelier, probably early 1600s

Wool and silk tapestry

Neusteter Textile Collection: Anonymous Gift

1974.275

References to war, victory and peace appear in this tapestry. At lower left, a foot soldier, seen next to a mounted warrior, brandishes a sword; in the background, troops gather. At center right, a group of men shown without their helmets and weapons and wearing laurel wreaths, approach figures gathered before a columned building. In the side borders, animals in combat are interspersed among floral bouquets and figural scenes. The large figures in the borders represent, clockwise from upper left, Victory, Fame, War, and Peace. Although the exact subject of the center composition remains unidentified, this tapestry relates stylistically to a set of hangings that depict scenes from the story of the Roman general, Scipio Africanus.

Hanging

Ottoman Empire

1700s – 1800s

Wool appliqué, silk and metal thread embroidery on wool

Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Jeff Bain

1983.234

This intriguing embroidery has affinities with textiles from East and West. The opulent floral bouquet shows the influence of European silk-embroidered designs. The appliqué work is very intricate and three-dimensional: layer upon layer of wool shapes create flowers, leaves, and other motifs. The shape of the niche, however, recalls the mihrab form found on Near Eastern prayer rugs as well as decorative panels for the interiors of tents, while the border echoes carpet and manuscript patterns. Made in professional workshops, hangings such as this were traded in Banja Luka (today located in Bosnia) and a number still survive in Hungary.

Imperial Cover or Hanging

China, Qing Dynasty

About 1850

Silk and metal thread embroidery on silk

Neusteter Textile collection: Gift of Dr. Arnold L. Tanis, 1974.216

An imperial dragon and two phoenixes, representing the emperor and empress, dominate this royal gift. Carp turning into dragons, seen at the bottom, symbolize passing exams. Bats, whose name, fu, sounds the same as the word for good fortune, fill the background as do images of Buddhist symbols, scholarly pursuits, and wish-granting clouds. The pagoda in the sea is a longevity motif: two cranes carry bamboo counters to place in the vase within the building. Each counter represents the time it takes for the ocean to change to solid land.

Sleeve Bands for a Chinese Woman’s Informal Coat: Cai Wenji Returning to China and Wang Zhaojun Departs for the Frontier

China, Qing Dynasty

1850-1875

Silk and metal thread embroidery on silk

Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of James P. Grant and Betty Grant Austin, 1977.466.1-2

Two Han dynasty ladies, Cai Wenji (177-250AD) and Wang Zhaojun (1st c. B.C) were married to Xiongnu, or Barbarians. Wenji was kidnapped and taken to the Mongolian steppe where she was forced to marry a king. She is shown in a tent with one of her two sons. The man dressed as a Manchu gentleman portrays her husband, who agreed to let her return to China but would not allow his sons to go. Wang Zhaojun, an imperial concubine, volunteered to marry a Xiongnu lord as a political bride. She carries her stringed pipa and rides a white horse. Both stories inspired Chinese operas.

Fireman’s Coat

Japan

late 1800s- early 1900s

Quilted (sashiko) cotton cloth with freehand paste resist decoration (tsutsugaki)

The Neusteter Textile Collection: Funds from Mrs. Simon Guggenheim, by exchange

1999.265

Japanese firemen's coats are reversible. For the New Year and other special occasions, a fireman wore his jacket with the pictorial side, here shown on the interior, facing outwards. On this coat, the Toad Spirit offers to teach magic to Jiraya, a notorious robber, on the condition that he use it only to benefit humanity.

When fighting fires, the coat was worn as pictured. A bold, legible pattern on the back identified the fireman's brigade. The coat was worn with close fitting trousers, a hood, and gloves. When saturated with water, the layers of quilted cotton helped provide protection against the flames.

Ancestral Altar Cloth (tok wi)

Indonesia

1900-1920

Tulis (handdrawn) batik on cotton ground

The Neusteter Textile Collection: Funds from Mrs. McIntosh Buell, by exchange

2000.51

Tok wi are altar cloths for hanging in front of an ancestral altar in a Perankan (Chinese-Indonesian) home. Each occasion required its own colors and motifs—bright red being used for festive occasions, primarily weddings. The female figure with two attendants and two children in the center of the roundel may be Zhong Li-quan, who holds the secrets of the elixir of life. Surrounding the roundel are four phoenixes. Whimsical figures—human and centaur—dance across the top of the panel.

Palampore

India, Coromandel Coast

late 1600s - early 1700s

Resist and mordant dyed cotton

The Neusteter Textile Collection: Funds, by exchange, from Neusteter Institute Funds, Mrs. Uvedale Lambert, Mrs. Ira Boyd Humphreys, and Mrs. Andrews D. Black

2002.1

Twisting and turning as it rises from the rocky ground, this sinuous tree of life bursts into flower with large, showy blossoms. Made in India through a labor-intensive process of repeated dyeings, such hangings were widely exported. The details of the design and coloration were adapted for specific markets. This particular type of hanging was highly prized by the Toraja of Sulawesi, Indonesia, who believed the cloth had special powers and used it for ceremonial purposes.

Hanging or Cover

Uzbekistan

1800s

Silk embroidery on cotton

The Neusteter Textile Collection: Funds, by exchange, from Mr. and Ms. Lawrence J. Phipps, Jr. and Neusteter Institute Funds

2002.3

Vividly embroidered cloths were an essential part of a Central Asian bride's dowry. Known as suzanis (from the Persian word suzan, meaning needle), they were made by female relatives and friends and vary in size according to their intended use, form large wall hangings to small cushion covers. A medium-size piece like this could have been used as a covering. The bold red rosettes are thought to represent poppies, while the palmettes, considered the flower of the pomegranate, symbolize fertility. When displayed throughout the home, these textiles created a virtual garden.

Ikat wall hanging

Uzbekistan

mid 1800s

Cotton and silk

The Neusteter Textile Collection: Gift of Guido Goldman

2005.139

A century-and-a-half ago in the fabled cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, ikat weavings were hung on walls where they created the atmosphere of a garden oasis in the stark Central Asian steppe. The intense colors and riotous patterns were produced through a painstaking process in which the design was resist-dyed onto individual silk warp threads before the fabric was woven. This wall hanging is one of seven ikats given to the museum by Guido Goldman. A former Harvard professor, Dr. Goldman formed the world's largest and most comprehensive private collection of nineteenth-century ikats, which he subsequently gifted to various museums.

Carol Eckert (American, born 1945)

Beware of Cranes

2010

Coiled cotton over wire

Neusteter Textile Collection: Museum purchase with funds from Salon du Musée

2011.270

Using a technique that is normally associated with basketry, Eckert creates an animated menagerie. The detailed coiled birds and animals represent fables and stories that unfold in compositions combining the intricacy of an illuminated manuscript with the immediacy of a pop-up book.

Carol Shinn (American, born 1948)

Chimney Rock

2010

Freestyle machine embroidery, cotton and polyester thread on cotton-polyester fabric

Neusteter Textile Collection: Neusteter Institute Fund, by exchange

2010.440

Shinn has developed freestyle machine embroidery into a painterly art form. Layering different colors of stitches to impart depth and detail, she likens her process to drawing by moving paper under a stationary pencil. Although her work begins with taking photographs from which she forms her composition—whether a close up or a panorama—she delves beyond the appearance of her subjects to elicit their very essence. Chimney Rock captures the sweeping vista visible from a hike to this monument on Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Overview

Textile Art Gallery, Level 6, North Building

The collections of the department of textile art encompass over 5,000 objects from Asia, Europe, North and South America, and range from archeological textiles to contemporary works of art in fiber.

Highlights

Notable aspects of the textile art collection include:

  • An internationally recognized collection of more than 300 American quilts. These include Indiana Wreath quilt, by Charlotte Jane Whitehill (1866-1964), and The Matterhorn quilt by Myrtle M. Fortner (1880-1966), Both were honored as being among the 100 best quilts of the 1900s.
  • The Julia Wolf Glasser collection, given by Mr. and Mrs. Raymond L. Grimes, comprises more than 100 samplers, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries and made in Europe, North and South America.
  • The Charlotte Hill Grant collection of more than 600 Chinese textiles, court robes, and accessories—primarily late Qing Dynasty—acquired by Mrs. Grant in China in the 1920s and 1930s, and subsequently gifted to the museum by her children, James P. Grant and Betty Austin Grant, in 1977.
  • Ecclesiastical vestments and textiles from the Renaissance to the 1900s, particularly the gift of Rev. John Krenzke.

Things To Do

  • PreVIEW Open Window
    Event: Lectures & Programs

    PreVIEW Open Window

    Occurs every Wednesday. Next Occurs on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - 10:30am12:00pm.

    Stop by for PREVIEW Open Window on Wednesday from 10:30 am-noon. More

  • Comme des Garçons, Jacket with Skirt, “Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body” collection, Spring/ Summer 1997.
    Exhibition

    Shock Wave

    Japanese Fashion Design, 1980s–90s
    On View through May 28, 2017

    Shock Wave: Japanese Fashion Design, 1980s–90s, shows work by Japanese designers who started a fashion revolution in Paris. The exhibition features 70 looks by powerhouse designers Issey Miyake, Kenzo Takada, Kansai Yamamoto, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, and Junya Watanabe, whose impact on fashion still resonates today. More

News & Stories

  • Textile storage assistants roll textiles
    Blog: Behind the Scenes

    See How the DAM Updated Textile Art Storage

    Thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the collections management department just completed an upgrade of the rolled textile storage collection. See their work in a time-lapse video and photographs. More

  • Announcing 3 New Curators at the DAM
    Blog: Behind the Scenes

    Announcing 3 New Curators at the DAM

    The Denver Art Museum recently announced that three curators joined the museum. Below is a brief introduction. Stay tuned for more information and opportunities to get to know them and their growing art collections.

    Tianlong Jiao, Joseph de Heer Curator of Asian Art More

  • Tapestry Video 4: Cleaning & Stabilizing
    Blog: Behind the Scenes

    Tapestry Video 4: Cleaning & Stabilizing

    In preparation for Creative Crossroads: The Art of Tapestry, (now closed) the Denver Art Museum's staff have been working on a Spanish Colonial table cover in PreVIEW (a behind-the-scenes visible staging area in our textile art gallery).

    Curators have examined it and explored its history, and textile art conservators have been testing and repairing the tapestry. In this video, conservators clean and stabilize the tapestry. More

Publications

Publications by and about the textile art department include:

Department

Current Staff

  • Florence Müller, Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art and Curator of Fashion
  • Jane Burke, Curatorial Assistant, Fashion and Textile Art
  • Stefania Van Dyke, Interpretive Specialist
  • Allison McCloskey, Associate Conservator of Textiles
  • Emma Schmitt, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Textile Conservation

Past Staff

  • Dr. Alice M. Zrebiec, Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art 2012-2015 (consulting curator 1996-2012)
  • Imelda G. DeGraw, Curator 1965-1992
  • Lydia Roberts Dunham, Curator 1955-1962