Artists & Artworks
Kent’s Cloth of the United Nations
During times of war, all nations involved in the conflict seek citizen support for the war effort. Many kinds
of artworks are created in order to foster patriotism.
Thanks to Dr. Jacqueline Atkins, who served as the Kate
Fowler Merle-Smith Curator of Textiles at the Allentown
Art Museum in Pennsylvania, we now know much more
about how textiles were used for propaganda purposes
during the Asia-Pacific War and World War II.
While in Japan doing research on quilts, Dr. Atkins
visited flea markets and
antique textile shops
where she happened to
find textiles with military
motifs, and she began to
seek examples of textiles
used for propaganda from
other nations involved in
the conflict. Her search
culminated in an exhibition entitled Wearing Propaganda: Textiles on the Home Front in Japan, Britain, and
the United States, 1931–1945.
The featured artwork, Kent’s Cloth of the United
Nations, depicts battles, national leaders, and symbols of
all of the nations who joined together as Western Allies
during these wars. The design was printed on feed-sack
cloth—cotton originally used for sacks to hold grain.
During the war, the frugal use of recycled cloth like this
was a sign of patriotism.
France, The Tapestry of the Lady and the Unicorn
The Lady with the Unicorn is one of six tapestries
designed in France and woven in what is now Belgium
during the late fifteenth century. Five of these tapestries
feature the five senses—touch, taste, smell, sound, and
sight, which is the one
presented here. A power-
ful nobleman ordered the
creation of these tapes-
tries and had his heraldic
arms prominently shown
in each. At the time of
their creation, it was a
sign of wealth to be able
to commission such large tapestries, so they sent a mes-
sage about the wealth and elevated status of the family.
Each of the six scenes includes a beautiful lady, a unicorn,
and a lion. The unicorn places his front legs on the knees
of the lady and views his reflection in her mirror.
—Dr. Jacqueline Atkins
“Textiles . . . have provided both public
and personal canvases on which to express
patriotic sentiments, and they have acted as
visible markers of national unity, tangible
testimony to military and national goals.”
Nagajuban (detail), “Gunken.” Japan, 1930s. Printed muslin, 263/8 x 24" (68 x 60
cm). Private collection, New York. Courtesy of Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture,
New York. Photographer: Bruce White.
Nigeria, Length of Material
The Nigerian textile featured here was created using a
wax-resist process of decorating cloth. This ancient art
form, known as batik in Indonesia and other parts of
Southeast Asia, was brought to Africa by Dutch traders and adapted by Africans who customized it with
designs and colors that reflected local traditional culture.
Nigerian wax-resist textiles are found in almost every
marketplace in sub-Saharan Africa. African wax-resist
designs fall into several categories: women’s lives, town
life and its effects, nature, and rhythm (music and drumming). This bolt of cloth displaying light bulbs would
fall under the “town life” category. In the last five years,
there has been a major effort in Nigeria to make the
country more energy efficient through the use of energy-saving light bulbs. This cloth sends a message about the
use of light bulbs.
Loretta Bennett (b. 1960), Strip Quilt
People throughout the world have made quilts to communicate messages of many kinds. Some quilts contain real-life or imagined stories; others commemorate
important life events such as the birth of a child or a
marriage. In these and other cases, the message told by
the quilt is fairly straightforward. Other times, as with
the Strip Quilt by Loretta Bennett, the message is subtle.
Like other quilters from Gees Bend, Alabama, and other
places in the United States, Bennett made her quilt from
strips of recycled blue jeans and other work pants. The
message sent has to do with the value of hard work and