Exhibition | Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design

Posted in books, catalogues by Editor on May 31, 2022

Fragment of chintz, coastal southeast India, 1700–30, made for a Dutch market but found in Japan (Washington, DC: The George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum, T-2864; Bruce M. White Photography). 

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Closing this week at The Textile Museum at The George Washington University (with videos of past programming and the catalogue still available) . . .

Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design
The Textile Museum, The George Washington University, Washington DC, 22 January — 4 June 2022

Vibrant textiles have long been synonymous with Indian culture. Their distinctive abstract, floral, and figurative patterns have inspired countless variations. Featuring masterworks from The Textile Museum Collection and the private collection of Karun Thakar, this major exhibition and accompanying publication showcase court weavings, folk embroideries, and other fabrics from the eighth through the early 20th centuries.

The Indian subcontinent is home to some of the world’s most ancient and illustrious textile traditions. Over the centuries, Indian textile artists have developed an enduring design vocabulary—from simply woven stripes to floral motifs to complex narrative scenes. Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design presents a stunning array of fabrics patterned with India’s most distinctive designs: abstract, floral, and figurative.

Some of the region’s oldest known textiles feature abstract patterns such as circles, stripes, and zigzags. Examples in the exhibition range from a fragment of a block-printed cloth traded to Egypt around the 15th century to intricately embroidered dresses made in present-day Pakistan’s Swat Valley in the 1800s and 1900s.

Floral patterns in Indian textiles became increasingly widespread in the 13th century, and artists excelled in adapting them for global markets. Embroidered caps from Bengal, for example, were fashionable ‘at home’ wear in 18th-century Europe; a man would often don one in the evening after removing his wig.

Figurative patterns provide a window into different religious beliefs across South Asia. A 15th-century narrative cloth from Gujarat depicts deities and other figures central to the Jain religion. A shrine cloth from Uttar Pradesh honors Sayyid Salar Mas’ud, a Muslim warrior-saint venerated by Muslims and Hindus alike.

The exhibition is accompanied by a gallery guide and a catalogue.

Karun Thakar, Rosemary Crill, Steven Cohen, Avalon Fotheringham, and Sylvia Houghteling, Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design (London: Hali Publications, 2021), 391 pages, ISBN: ‎978-1898113966, $80.

Installation view of Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design at the George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum, featuring on the back wall (center, top) a ceremonial cloth crafted in India for Indonesian buyers; late 18th or 19th century, Karun Thakar Collection (Dave Scavone/The George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum).

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