Cotton Quilt

By Katherine Hastings

Index of American Design


National Gallery of Art

In addition to providing work for unemployed artists, the goal of the Index of American Design was to create a permanent record of American design that could be used as inspiration to contemporary designers. Although the portfolios projects imagined never transpired, during the New Deal and subsequent years, many Americans saw exhibitions featuring renderings from the IAD. The art critic for the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph reviewed a 1940 exhibit of IAD paintings, praising the resulting renderings as works of art in their own right, rather than mere “copywork.” She liked it better than the many WPA murals she characterized as “drab.” Her review highlighted the contributions of Katherine Hastings, observing that she painted “so exquisitely that one would swear it was a portion of the quilt mounted” (March 31, 1940).

Hastings painted at least 15 corner details of quilts, in addition to many fabric swatches, pieces of glass, woven coverlets, furniture, jewelry, and other works of decorative art. This image, a detail of a Carolina Lily, shows how her technique indeed resulted in a life-like painting, in which the texture of the quilting stitches and the weave of the fabric appear tangible.

Like many quilts documented in the California Index of American Design, this quilt was made further east, in Ohio, and came west with the owner’s family.