Chintz, which comes from the Hindi word chint, means spotted, variegated, speckled, or sprayed and is not to be confused with the middle English derived word chintzy. This fiber technology is featured in the art museum’s new show, Global Threads: The Art and Fashion of Indian Chintz, which opened this week. This visiting exhibit comes to town from the Royal Ontario Museum. The show emphasizes both the art and technology that formed this industrial art form.
Five thousand years ago, tree cotton was domesticated by farmers in the Indus valley. In the intervening centuries centers for decorating cotton cloth developed across much of India. This industry had already spawned a worldwide trade that in the 17th-century was discovered by the West, to which it also quickly spread.
Over time, Indian artisans perfected complex methods for producing dyes and mordants to create painted and printed cloth in a spectrum of fade-resistant colors. Dramatic and specialized designs were able to captivate customers from different cultures worldwide. Its success however, led to factory-made imitations in Europe, which relied on underlying economic and political decisions often involving the exploitation of humans.