A New World in the Old: European Quilt Scholarship


From The Quilt Journal - An International Review, Vol. 1, No. 1.


By: Janniere, Janine

Editor Notes: While Europe's quilting tradition has been noted and studied for some generations, its quilt tradition has remained largely hidden. One can see in a number of European institutions examples of quilted articles (under-armor, caps, petticoats and other traditional, largely white, work). But in only a few museums in England, and several in other countries, have European quilts been on display. In addition, little research has been done in Europe outside of England on European quilt making. There are several reasons for this. It reflects the bias and interests of traditionally trained textile historians. It reflects the "high style"and "ruling taste" orientation of many European museums, art historians and aestheticians. "Folk Art" is not as a rule as popular or as highly regarded in Europe as in the United States. It reflects also the space needs of competing departments within European museums. Quilts take a great deal of exhibition area and have few spokespeople among museum personnel. This is changing rapidly as more Europeans, inspired by the many exhibitions in the US. and elsewhere featuring American quilts, and contemporary quilt movements within their countries, are searching for their own quilt traditions. More European countries have become interested in indigenous arts and crafts, and the pioneering folk life museums of Europe have expanded their quilt holdings, research and exhibition schedules. One result of this awakened interest was the recent exhibition, "Quilts, The Dutch Tradition," at the Nederlands Openlucht museum in Arnhem, Holland. French quilt historian and Americanist Janine Janniere ponders European attitudes towards quilts and discusses the scope and impact of the Openlucht Museum exhibition.

Author Notes: Janine Janniere is currently teaching English at the National Institute of Applied Sciences in Toulouse, France. Her previous position was at Paris X University. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Paris VIII University. After receiving the 1975 Scholarship Award from the American Women's Group in Paris (a FAWCO Foundation-affiliated group), she enrolled in a Masters program in Education at the University of Connecticut,in Storrs, and obtained her Masters degree in 1977. She discovered the American quiltmaking tradition during her years inrural New England and has concentrated on it ever since. She has done further research on the subject within a Ph. D. program in American Studies at Paris VIII University. After obtaining a research grant from the Fulbright Commission in 1984-85, she toured the United States for several months doing fieldwork and was also a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of Appalachian Affairs of East Tennessee University. She has been lecturing in France on this subject for a number of years.