*Featured photo: Woman’s shirt or tunic, Swat Valley, Pakistan, late 19th-early 20th century, Karun Thakar Collection, London
At the Textile Museum at George Washington University in Washington, DC, opening January 2022 Through June 6, 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.
About the Exhibition
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 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.
Indian Textiles is accompanied by a gallery guide and a catalog.
Lead support for this project is provided by The Coby Foundation, Ltd., Alastair and Kathy Dunn, Roger and Claire Pratt, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Major support is provided by Bruce P. and Olive W. Baganz, the Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection Endowment, Tina M. deVries, Helen K. King, Norma and Ted Lonoff, The Markarian Foundation, Edwina M. Nelon, Mary Jo Otsea and Richard H. Brown, David M. Sloan and an anonymous donor. Additional support is provided by Corinne M. Berezuk, Sylvia Bergstrom, Joe Rothstein and Marin Hagen, Cynthia R. Boyer, Sheridan and Richard Collins, K. Burke Dillon, Grace and David Pratt, Jay M. Schippers and Soane Britain