American Toiles:
Revolution and Romance

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from "Newport Toile" by F. Schumacher


Toiles -- printed fabrics of historical or pastoral scenes -- are once again popular in home decorating, just as they have been, on and off, for two hundred and fifty years.

First produced in Ireland in the 1750's, they spread quickly to England and then to France, where they became known as toiles de Jouy. (Toile is French for cloth and Jouy was the factory in Versailles where they were manufactured, becoming the favorite fabric of Marie Antoinette.)

After the American Revolution, the British exported toiles (which they called copperplate prints) to their former colonies with images such as George Washington riding a chariot and Ben Franklin in a fur hat.

By the 19th century, roller printing replaced copperplate printing and Americans began producing their own toiles, based mainly on eighteenth century European designs.  Present-day toiles also follow classic patterns.

But in the twentieth century,  designers were inspired by a unique American vision, creating fabrics that retold our history and our simple pleasures (or at least our yearning for them).  This exhibit looks at American toiles -- both historical and pastoral -- created from the 1930's to the 1970's.

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