Quilts 1700-1945 - Queensland Art Gallery

Hidden Histories; Untold Stories,' which showed in the Victoria and Albert Museum from March 20 to July 4, 2010.

The exhibition has been split into four themed sections that date from the 18th to 20th century. 'The Domestic Landscape' explores the world of luxury goods displayed in 18th century bedrooms, including the only surviving set of chintz (Indian Cotton cloth) patchwork bed hangings from this period. The late 17th century saw a boom in the popularity of this hand drawn and dyed fabric, leading to a ban of Indian imports (except for re-export) in order to protect British Manufacturing.

'Private Thoughts, Political Debates' uncovers printed textile panels celebrating military victories and royal celebrations at the start of the 19th century. This section includes a coverlet created by 20 girl guides between the ages of 8 and 16 years old from the Changi Prison in Singapore used to hold civilians. Working in secret, the girls met once a week cutting segments from the dresses in order to make a present for their leader before a prison guard stopped them.

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'Virtue and Virtuosity' shows the movement of quilts from personal use to public displays and education in Victorian England, as both men and women began to create quilts. Inspired by the Bible, military history and popular characters from theatre and music hall, quilting was seen as a 'self help' method of resisting the lure of taverns and alcohol, particularly for men serving in the military.

With the start of the 20th century creating a boom in mass production, this marked the decline in quilt making and other traditional crafts. Economically deprived Wales and north-east England continued quilting as a method of income and self expression, and saw the quilt continue to take its functional role providing warmth and decoration while linking the past with the present. 'Memories and Emotions' shows the crafts evolution through this period.

The works are primarily from the V&A with select pieces from UK's regional museums and private collections, showcasing some of the finest surviving examples of British bed covers, wall hangings and textiles from the 18th and 19th centuries. A special addition to the exhibition, on loan from the National Gallery of Australia, is The Rajah Quilt 1841. This is one of the earliest examples of Australian quilting and one of the world's most important textiles, sewn by 180 women prisoners as they sailed on the Rajah to Tasmania from Hobart. All fabric, needles and thread used were donated by the British Ladies' Society.

Curator Sue Prichard is no new comer to quilting and patchwork as the Curator of Contemporary Textiles at the V&A, joining the society in 2001. Prichard is responsible for the Museums collection of post-war textiles and has curetted a number of contemporary textile displays including 'Recent Acquisitions 1992-2002: A decade of Collecting Textiles' (2003-04), and 'Penelope's Thread: Contemporary Tapestry from the Permanent Collection' (2006).

To celebrate this exclusive exhibition, the QAC will host a variety of lectures, tours, events and workshops for guests that will "bring to life the fascinating histories of quilt making." From informal exhibition tours outlining key themes and ideas and lectures on the development of the exhibition, to hands on workshops and suitcase rummage markets with local designers.

A 196 page soft cover entitled publication has been co-edited by the Queensland Art Gallery, Sue Prichard and the V&A museum to accompany the exhibition, available for purchase online or at the 'Quilts 1700-1945' pop up store located within the Queensland Art Gallery. Drawn from the vast textile collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the book celebrates more than 200 years of British quilts and patchwork. Robert Bell, Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, has written an entire essay for the publication to represent Australia's Own Rajah Quilt.

With adult tickets priced at $15, students $8, and children 12 and under gaining free entrance, this is an educational and creative exhibition for the whole family.

Queensland Art Gallery will also present an exhibition of quilts from celebrated Brisbane quilt maker Ruth Stonely (1940-2007), in the Xstrata Coal Queensland Artists' Gallery from July 13 to October 7.

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