Quilts As Art: A New Museum Exhibit in Boston


Log Cabin, Barn Raising Variation Quilt, attributed to: Mrs. Herrick (American), Massachusetts, 1879. Foundation pieced top of cotton and silk in variety of structures including silk velvet with silk embroidery, silk plain-weave backing quilted to unknown material. Height x width: 191.8 x 190.5 cm (75 1/2 x 75 in.)

Quilts are often seen as utilitarian objects, meant to keep you warm on chilly winter nights. “Quilts and Color: The Pilgrim/Roy Collection,” the new exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, presents them in a different light.

Collector Gerald Roy first trained as a painter, giving him an eye for color and pattern. As he and the late Paul Pilgrim began collecting quilts, Roy noticed that the artisans had an intuitive sense of color. In fact, many of the quilts were reminiscent of modern abstract artwork. This exhibit showcases 58 American-made quilts from Pilgrim and Roy’s collection, which truly look more at home on the wall than folded at the end of a bed.

East Coasters: The exhibit opens April 6 and runs through July 27. Here’s a sneak peek of a few beauties on display, for those who can’t make the trip….


Double Wedding Ring Quilt (African-American), Missouri, about 1940. Pieced-cotton plain-weave top, cotton plain-weave back and binding; quilted. Height x width: 208.3 x 210.8 cm (82 x 83 in.)

This quilt shown above is a bright, bold twist on a traditional pattern often seen during the Depression Era in pastels and white.


Carpenter’s Wheel Quilt, attributed to: Mrs. Miller (American), Mennonite, Pennsylvania, Easton, about 1890. Pieced-cotton plain-weave top, cotton plain-weave back and binding; quilted. Height x width: 204.2 x 204.2 cm (80 3/8 x 80 3/8 in.)

The juxtaposition of complementary colors, like the red and green in this quilt, creates an arresting, vivid palette.


Sunburst Quilt, Mrs. Ephraim Scott (American), 1856. Pieced printed cotton plain-weave top, printed cotton plain-weave 
back and binding; quilted

When you pair analagous colors that are closer to each other on the color wheel, such as green and yellow, the result is usually a more cohesive and balanced look, as seen in this quilt.

Looking to start your own collection? Pamela Parmal, department head, and David and Roberta Logie Curator of Textile and Fashion Arts, recommend looking for quilts in good condition at antiques shops and antiques shows and online.

Photos: Pilgrim/Roy Collection, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Learn More About the Exhibit