Reflections of the Exotic East | China

Printed chinoiserie fabric, circa 1780-1800. Byron and Sara Rhodes Dillow Collection IQSCM 2008.040.0192.

This fabric is not Chinese. It is a European mixture of Chinese designs and whimsical imaginations of how China and its people might look. Many of these chinoiserie designs found their way into early American quilts and added an exotic touch. The fad for chinoiseries began in the late 1700s and continued well into the 1800s.

One hundred years later, China rose again as a prominent influence on American decorative arts and popular culture. Chinoiserie designs adorned everything from vases to dinnerware to furniture. Stereotyped interpretations of Chinese culture appeared in the popular Charlie Chan and Dr. Fu Manchu movies of the 1920s and ’30s and Art Deco styles incorporated geometric fretwork patterns, which reflected the Chinese preference for formal, symmetrical designs.

Click on the images below to see a larger view of and more information on the quilts included in this exhibition.