The chance to see an exhibition like this was not to be missed. I had anticipated having a chance to see some quilts in Ohio, where the tradition is well established and there appears to be a strong heritage. But this came as a surprise and we were all happy to take the train a few stops up the line and spend the afternoon in the Museum of Fine Arts.
We were hungry and thirsty, though, so had a spot of lunch in the courtyard American Cafe first. Dorothy would be envious of the view from our table, I knew: That’s Dale Chihuly’s Lime Green Icicle tower there, just feet away from us and we all love it to bits!
As soon as we’d finished, we went on down to the basement, where the quilt exhibit was on show. Not too busy, most of the visitors were small groups of ladies quietly and thoughtfully viewing each quilt in turn, standing well back to admire the overall composition and allowing plenty of space for everyone to see. A well disciplined bunch, then!
Most of the quilts were from the late 19th century and made to traditional designs. The point of the show was the use of colour, of course, and each grouping was placed to illustrate a particular point. Here, we have some detail of one of those in the complementary colour corner, beautifully made and exquisitely quilted. Actually, this one was a contender for the one I wanted to sneak into my bag and run away with.
This group of quilts was hung on grey walls, allowing the bright colours to shine out and we felt them to be surprisingly contemporary in the pattern and use of colour. Each quilt was clearly labelled with details of the maker and the pattern, together with collectors’ notes. Here’s the information which was beneath the blue, red and yellow quilt on the left of the picture above.
Further on around, there was a group of Amish quilts, hung on rather paler grey walls. Though these were beautifully made, somehow the larger patterns were overshadowed by those with more detail.
The quilting was exquisite on these pieces too, needless to say.
Just opposite was a firm favourite of many of the visitors; a quilt which was creating a lot of interest mostly because it had been created by a woman in her late 80s. Fine pieces of carefully chosen silks, stitched in a log cabin pattern with a small embroidered motif in the centre of each one.
Sadly, another visitor was in the way of my photograph, but you’ll get the overall effect of that beauty, which must have taken forever to sew. By hand, of course.
On we went, past deceptively simple quilts, where the skilful maker had used colour to excellent effect. Many of these quilts included the same fabrics, identical blue, red or green patterns which were very popular of the time.
Each corner had breathtaking examples of the finest needlework, tiny quilting stitches and perfectly pieced tops.
Each one illustrated a point – this one was with a few optical illusions, created by skilful use of colour and pattern.
The was the poster quilt; the one chosen to illustrate the cover of the exhibition catalogue and to hang on the outside of the museum on huge banners. Strikingly colourful, it appeared to follow no rules at all, but to use the colours with exuberance in a great pattern, all hand stitched. It had been made by an unknown African-American maker, probably in the 1940s.
Though I could admire the marvellous needle skills on show in this Baltimore Beauty, actually preferred many of the others. It was remarkable for the sheer quantity of work which had gone into it, however, and would probably take the majority of us ordinary stitchers a lifetime to sew.
We took another quick look around to make sure we’d missed nothing, spent a while in the gift shop where our favourite quilts were sadly not those chosen for postcards and decided to move right along.
After all, we couldn’t leave without paying homage to our favourites, could we? The Singer Sargent collection hangs directly above the quilt show, so within seconds we were standing in front of this beauty. Actually, I will admit to a little eavesdropping on the ladies sitting on the sofa, too – they were discussing Downton Abbey plotlines and their thoughts were quite amusing!
Last but not least, on this warm, sultry afternoon, I said hello to the boys in the pasture, so wonderfully captured by Winslow Homer. We have a postcard of the painting, bought on one of our early visits to this gallery and which sits on a shelf in our guest bedroom. On every subsequent visit, I’ve come to check it’s still here and looking good!
Time to go then. To catch the T back to the hotel and to take a short rest before dinner. The clouds were coming in quickly and we feared it was going to rain, so fingers crossed that we’d reach the hotel before it did.
About half an hour after we got back, we watched as the storm clouds gathered and the rain began. We timed it just right! What a lovely day we’ve had here; what a great city it is that can offer so much within such a small area and still provide much joy and ample reward on repeated visits too. Tomorrow, we’ll move on, begin our road trip proper and leave the city behind as we go off into the Berkshires. It’s going to be fun!