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October 23, 2021July 9, 2023

To Teach and Inspire: The Julia Brenner Textile Collection

Between 1923 and 1938, Julia Brenner (1866–1944) donated more than one thousand textile fragments, as well as nearly two hundred costume components, costume accessories, complete textiles, and tools, to the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum (now part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco). International in scope, with examples of weaves and techniques from around the world, her collection has served as the foundational holding of the Museums’ textile arts collection for nearly one hundred years. 

Born in San Francisco, Brenner married into a prominent Jewish mercantile family who gave back to the city by supporting a wide array of social causes and charitable endeavors. Her donation reflects this sense of civic responsibility, as well as her awareness of museums’ educational missions, her appreciation of textiles as art objects, and the popular early twentieth-century practice of donating art to public institutions for the betterment of society. Brenner hoped that her collection—which she formed in collaboration with private donors, national industrial groups, global textiles manufacturers, and ambassadors and consulates—would serve as an inspirational and educational resource for future generations of museum visitors, particularly those working in the US textiles industry.

To Teach and Inspire:

The Julia Brenner Textile Collection features a selection of printed textiles, spanning the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, from Brenner’s collection. Although printed textiles are common to many international traditions, Brenner’s collection is primarily Western, speaking to the tastes of some American textiles collectors and interior designers during her lifetime. Featuring key stylistic and representational printed textiles, it offers a chronology of common designs. By highlighting developments in technologies and dyestuffs while acknowledging recurring patterns and themes, it creates a visual and intellectual dialogue across two centuries of printed-textiles production.

Image: Manufactured by H. R. Mallinson & Company, Designed by Walter Mitschke, Dress fragment: "Paradise Valley, Mount Rainier," 1927. Silk, complex weave, cylinder printed. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Mrs. Gustave Brenner, 55237.7


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