The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum
Williamsburg, VA
Hunt-Wulkowicz Graphics

The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum
The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
326 W. Francis St.
Williamsburg, Va. 23185
(757) 220-7724


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Commodity for the Colonies

Artists on the Move: Portraits for a New Nation

Printed Fashions: Textiles for Clothing and Home

Chinese Export Porcelain


Commodity for the Colonies
Through June 2021
Len and Cyndy Alaimo Gallery

Now on view in the Alaimo Gallery, learn the story of the most important industry in 18th century Great Britain. The 13 British North American colonies were the biggest market for the trade, and more fabric flowed to North America than any other commodity. From the simplest wash cloth to the most elaborate furniture upholstery and fashionable clothing, textiles were spun, woven, and finished in British factories to be sold by merchants around the globe. Visit the exhibition at The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum to learn more.

Artists on the Move: Portraits for a New Nation
Roberts Gallery

In today’s world it is hard to imagine a time when posing for the camera was not an option. Americans over 200 years ago were no less interested in having their picture made, but it required more work. Yet as America explored its freedom and adjusted to its status as a new nation, people wanted to express themselves and artists were there to help them out.

Some artists settled in cities, but many traveled to meet their customers’ needs. As Americans moved west and south, artists followed. Like their clients, the artists were themselves Americans looking for their own opportunities. Some traveled to train with well-known painters while others figured it out as they went along. For the most part, their clients sought to record themselves and their families for posterity. Today these portraits give us our only chance to see fellow Americans from the past in full color.

If you could pick only one image to be remembered by, what would it be? On view are more than 30 portraits, some never before exhibited. Each portrait has a story to tell, whether it is the marriage of childhood sweethearts or an artist creating his own selfie. Discover a painting that was made for a President and one that was rescued from the trash.

This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Juli and David Grainger and the Grainger Foundation.

Printed Fashions: Textiles for Clothing and Home
Through 2018
Gilliland Gallery

Colonial Williamsburg has not previously showcased its superlative collection of printed textiles that range in date from the late 17th century into the 19th century. With their stunning designs and bright colors, the objects in this exhibit will be a feast for the eyes. Printed fabrics were used to make fashionable clothing and to upholster home furnishings. While visually arresting, printed textiles also had economic importance as trade goods and as examples of technological advances. A variety of techniques were used to create innumerable patterns. Fabrics were resist printed, block printed, copperplate printed and roller printed. Each of these required different manufacturing skills and resulted in a wide range of designs and patterns available to the 18th-century consumer. On view will be over 75 objects including gowns, quilts, men's waistcoats, curtains and bed furnishings. The printed designs range from floral bouquets to patriotic heroes like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mary Turner Gilliland and Clinton Gilliland through the Turner-Gilliland Family Foundation, Barbara and George Cromwell, and the DeWitt Wallace Exhibitions Reserve.

Chinese Export Porcelain
In the June Weldon focus room.

Chinese export porcelain played an important role in the lives of 18th colonists. From shop keepers to gentlemen, widows to blacksmiths, 18th century people wanted to own Chinese porcelain dishes. Possessing even a small amount of it indicated wealth and status to friends and neighbors. Every teacup, every plate, embodied style and fashion as well as being evidence of the complex trade between China and the West. Each piece of delicate porcelain traveled thousands of miles before finding its way into the hands of the person who used it. This exhibit illustrates the wide variety of Chinese porcelain that was available in colonial America. Particular emphasis is placed on pieces with histories in Virginia and objects recovered from archaeological excavations.

Birds, Bugs and Blooms: Observing the Natural World in the 18th Century
Shirley H. and Richard D. Roberts Gallery

Explore the growth of interest in natural history during the 18th century through period illustrations. With the settlement of the New World, many Englishmen and colonists were fascinated by the plants and animals that were native to the region. These gentlemen on both sides of the Atlantic exchanged specimens and ideas and sponsored the avid collecting and documenting of birds, bugs and plants. Gardens, carefully planned and laid out, furthered the studies and enjoyment both privately and publically. Beautiful watercolors, hand-colored prints and period books illustrate this story.

Lock, Stock, and Barrel
Through mid-2018

An immensely popular and longstanding exhibit, Lock, Stock and Barrel begins with an explanation of the various firearm ignition systems as used throughout the colonial period. The exhibit takes us from the early 17th to the end of the 18th century via a timeline of military longarms, including matchlocks, wheellocks, “English” locks, “dog” locks, and their descendants, the true flintlocks.

One of the highlights to be seen at Colonial Williamsburg is a world-renowned progression of Britain’s famed “Brown Bess’ muskets, which forms the backbone of Lock, Stock and Barrel. Supporting this unique collection are those related arms carried by officers, cavalrymen, sailors, Native Americans, and the semi-military firearms carried by American militiamen. Also represented are the Dutch, French and American-made arms used extensively during the Revolutionary War. Capping off the exhibit is a selection of very fine flintlock guns once owned by Lord Dunmore, Virginia’s last Royal Governor, followed by a hint of what the fledgling United States armed itself with after the war was won.

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