Amish Quilt; Photo: Christoph Yorda

Amish quilts and the art of the 1960s
Quilts from the Caroline Wöhrl Collection

“The rare antique quilts from the Caroline Wöhrl Collection are clever,
but not so much was achieved through the juxtaposition with the artworks”

(Augsburger Allgemeine, August 2, 2011, Martin Frei)


An amazing convergence of textile and fine art

Sometimes it takes an isolated way of life to bring forth something wonderful. Between 1880 and 1950, in the secluded world of the Amish in North America, an extraordinarily skilful, hand-stitched style of quilting came into being. The quilts impress with their reduced visual language of squares, lines and stripes.

With their clear geometry, large-scale colour arrangements and strict compositions, the quilt motifs anticipated the formal art movements of the 1960s in a striking way, in particular minimalism, concrete art and op art.

It is not surprising that even in the 1960s and 1970s, two exhibitions of the quilts were considered groundbreaking. The renowned New York art historian Robert Hughes declared the Amish quilts to be one of the “finest aesthetic forms in America”. The heartland of the orthodox Amish, Lancaster County, has repeatedly attracted modern artists - including Andy Warhol, who had an extensive quilt collection. 

The Amish

The essential features of the quilts have their basis in the simple, rule-based lifestyle of the Amish Christian community. The Amish took their repertoire of motifs from their daily lives. The “bar” motif is thought to represent the furrows of a ploughed field, while the “square-in-a-square” pattern could be derived from the ornamentation of the „Ausbund“ – the Amish hymnal.

Amish quilts through the mirror of 1960s art

In the exhibition, beautiful antique quilts from the Caroline Wöhrl Collection are juxtaposed with visual art from the 1960s. The quilts’ canon of forms, including the centre diamond, centre square, bars and tumbling block, are juxtaposed with works by Werner Bauer, Hartmut Böhm, Daniel Buren, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Günter Fruhtrunk, Rupprecht Geiger, Rolf Glasmeier, Hans Jörg Glattfelder, Roland Helmer, Rainer Kallhardt, Imi Knoebel, Christian Megert, François Morellet, Josef Neuhaus, Ulrich Rückriem, Richard Serra and Ludwig Wilding.

The exhibition illustrates the formal parallels between the textiles and the fine art, and also explains the different intellectual and social backgrounds in which they arose.


Objects: Antique Amish quilts and large-format works by circa 20 artists
Presentation area: 500 sqm, modifiable in size

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© Exhibition concept: Susanne Flesche
The exhibition concept is based on the exhibition Amish Quilts und die Kunst der 60er Jahre (Amish Quilts and the Art of the 1960s) from 2011, developed by Susanne Flesche for the Kunsthaus Kaufbeuren and now extended to include additional outstanding pieces.