Current & Coming | By Suzanne Arney

On Chintz: A Conversation with Rosemary Crill

May 6, 2009  |  To coincide with its current exhibition, Chintz Appliqué: From Imitation to Icon, the International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Nebraska (IQSC) recently invited Rosemary Crill, senior curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum and author of the new book, Chintz: Indian Textiles for the West (V&A Publishing, 2008), to speak on the history of this fascinating fabric. Crill surprised the audience by declaring that none of the quilts in the exhibition were in fact of chintz—the word historically defined as the hand printed, mordant- and resist-dyed patterned Indian cotton cloth, not the industrially produced textiles produced in England that are more commonly known today. To clarify this and other aspects of the history of chintz, Crill answered some of my questions after her talk:

In the author's note in your new book, you state that it is an update of Origins of Chintz, John Irwin and Katherine Brett's seminal book from 1970. Why did you think this was the time for an amendment to the history of chintz?

Origins is still the bible of chintz history, however it is out of print, and the pictures are in black and white. It needed an update, and it also gave us the opportunity to reproduce several garments in full, not just as details.

The subtitle of your book is "Indian Textiles for the West." Chintz seems the quintessential English pattern.  Can you clarify the connection?

Eighteenth-century English spice merchants found Indian chintz to be a valuable trade commodity. Saving some for themselves, they discovered an even greater market at home. The bright, colorfast, and exotic patterns as well as the incredible cotton fabric itself (which was new to the West) were instantly in demand for home furnishings, and later, for clothing.
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by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Cynthia Drayton

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