‘Color and Contour’ Opens June 15

‘Color and Contour’ Opens June 15

June 11, 2018

The International Quilt Study Center & Museum is shedding light on historical French quiltmaking traditions in “Color and Contour: Provençal Quilts and Domestic Objects.” 

Guest curated by scholar and collector Kathryn Berenson, “Color and Contour” showcases quilts and folk objects made between 1780-1900. It can be seen June 15-Oct. 28 in the museum’s Lois Gottsch Gallery.

Quilts from the IQSCM’s Kathryn Berenson Collection and Byron and Sara Rhodes Dillow Collection will be displayed alongside dishes, utensils and other everyday objects. The selected works highlight the play of light and shadow over the surface of a single color textile. 

“Sometimes the effects are dramatic,” Berenson said. “Other times they are subtle—depending on so many variances—the textile's color, of course, its texture—whether glossy or matte, the depth of the shadows between raised areas of the surface, and how closely raised areas are set against one another. Provençal quilters were experts at finding beautiful solutions to interesting challenges.”

“Color and Contour” follows up Berenson’s groundbreaking exhibition, “Marseille: White Corded Quilts.” The world’s first major display of all-white quilted and corded French needlework, it appeared at the IQSCM in 2010-2011. Berenson examined technique, technology and imagery in whole-cloth whitework made during the 17th and 18th centuries in the the port city located on the French Riviera.

While “Marseille” looked exclusively at white whole-cloth quilts, the new installation gives attention to the only piecework tradition found in Provence. Known as “fenêtre”—which translates to window in English—the quilts are composed of a large interior block of one textile with a surrounding border made from another contrasting color, print or quilted design.

“Color and Contour” is supported by Berenson’s debut book, “Quilts of Provence: The Art and Craft of French Quiltmaking,” published in 1997.

“The depth of her research is truly amazing,” said Leslie Levy, Ardis and Robert James Executive Director of Quilt House. “She does incredible, in-depth research that puts the quilts in a cultural light. She not only focuses on the quilts but looks at the phenomena happening around it.” 

Berenson is a renown authority on French textiles. Her books, which also include “Marseille: The Cradle of White Corded Quilting” are scholastically known as the definitive books on the subject. A longtime fellow of the IQSCM, her research has been shared through museums in the United States and internationally in Italy, the United Kingdom and France.

Her expertise has been instrumental in building the museum’s collection of historical French quilts.

“She has brought a whole world of quilts to us with her unprecedented research,” said Carolyn Ducey, curator of collections. “Whole-cloth quilts are especially fascinating. It’s easy to overlook the beautiful quilted designs. Her research gives attention on the elaborate details and traditional imagery.” 

Support for this exhibition comes from the Nebraska Arts Council and Nebraska Cultural Endowment with additional funding from the Friends of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.

Located on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus, the International Quilt Study Center & Museum’s mission is to build a global collection and audience that celebrate the cultural and artistic significance of quilt. The museum makes its academic home in the Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design in the university’s College of Education and Human Sciences. 

"Color and Contour," opening at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum on June 15,
highlights and explores antique French quilts, like this "Vanne" made circa 1850-1900 in Provence.