LS: Art of Quilting Column March 01, 2009

Renowned quilt historian 'finds’ lost masterpieces

Let’s just say Barbara Brackman knows a photo opportunity when she sees one.

The well-known quilt historian told me recently that she has always wanted to paint on an artist’s canvas.

“But I really don’t have the skills to paint the things I see in my head,” says Brackman of Lawrence, Kan.

Up until now, her claim to fame has been her expertise at dating historic quilt patterns and publishing many authoritative books on the subject.

Book publishing led her into the realm of computers and, not long ago, Brackman decided she needed to learn some Photoshop skills. Photoshop is a computer program that allows you to digitally manipulate photographs.

Before long, Brackman found herself taking some liberties with what she calls “lost masterpieces.” Some famous works of art suddenly acquired a few unexpected details.

Zaniness infected her normally scholarly approach as Brackman laughingly asked herself:

What if the iconic couple in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” from 1930 wore matching patchwork clothing?

Or, why not layer a colorful quilt over Francisco Goya’s nude reclining woman from 1800?

Perhaps Mona Lisa could be working on a sewing machine in her portrait from the early 1500s.

Another of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous inventions?

“Now — too bad for art history — there is no stopping me,” Brackman says.

After altering 16 masterpiece paintings from the ages, she assembled them into a “silly” calendar of “Lost Quilt Masterpieces” and offered it for sale. Note cards also are available.

Both are published through Kansas City Star Books. Go to to learn more.

The note cards cost $12.95, or you can buy both the calendar and note cards for $24.95.

The calendar’s introduction says the images “will amuse quilters and art lovers alike.”

(Maybe I should note here, too, that the images Brackman “doctored” are copyright free.)

It’s a 16-month calendar that includes the first four months of 2010, as well as a Paint Box quilt pattern inspired by Gustav Klimt’s painting “The Kiss.”

The finished quilt measures 30 inches by 40 inches.

  Check them out for a good laugh and a nod to fine art.
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