Indian textiles on show at George Washington University Museum

Phtoto Courtesy: Zachary Marin/the George Washington University

‘Indian Textiles:1,000 Years of Art and Design’ exhibition open Tuesday through Saturday through June 4

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,’ a new exhibition at he George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, presents a stunning array of fabrics patterned with India’s most distinctive designs: abstract, floral and figurative.

Located on GW’s Foggy Bottom campus in Washington, DC, the exhibtion is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm through June 4.

Read: Exhibition of Indian folk textiles in San Jose (March 11, 2013)

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.

Vibrant textiles have long been synonymous with Indian culture. Their distinctive abstract, floral and figurative patterns have inspired countless variations.

Some of 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 a series of virtual and in-person programs that explore themes from the exhibition. The limited-edition catalog Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design is available for purchase ($80).

The hardcopy book includes essays by leading historians of Indian textiles, including Rosemary Crill, Steven Cohen, Avalon Fotheringham and Sylvia Houghteling.

You can order a copy through the museum’s Artisans Gallery at 202-960-5311 or or

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