December 15, 1926:
The Brooklyn Museum announces the opening on Saturday, December 18th, of a special exhibition of Javanese Batiks and East India Woven Stuffs. This collection has been assembled and arranged by Miss Eliza Maria Niblack and is displayed in the galleries of the Department of Decorative Arts on the second floor of the Museum's new wing. The collection presents an opportunity for the study of all the types of the development of the peculiar form of art expression in which Java has excelled. In assembling the collection the aim has been to get as wide a range of specimens as possible in order to show the designs and color schemes peculiar to certain cities and provinces.
Many of the dark blue and white and the tan and white batiks come from the city of Djocja and represent the highest development of the technique. In addition to batiks the exhibition includes Hadji head-dresses from Bali, hangings of ikatting from Sembawah and other islands of the East Indies, Mohammedan head-dresses from Borneo, metal weavings from Sumatra and specimens of tie-dyeing from Singapore. The instruments for making the batiks are also shown, as well as figures illustrating how the garments are worn.
The exhibition will continue through January 24th.
Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1916 - 1930. 1926, 100.
December 5, 1928:
The Exhibition of Javanese Batiks which was opened at the Brooklyn Museum on Saturday, December 1st and will continue until December 31st is an interesting collection of 38 pieces lent by Mr. Paul E. Vernon, paper manufacturer living in Brooklyn and a world traveller. He has shown himself a collector of discriminating taste as all the pieces he has lent for display have highly satisfactory textile designs and remarkable color.
The types of pieces shown are sarongs, slendangs and kapalas. The first are long rectangular pieces which are wrapped around the body, the second narrow rectangular pieces worn by the woven by the women over the head as a scarf or to carry babies or bundles and the third square pieces worn as turbans chiefly by the men. Each of them is an example of highly individualistic work and they are so highly prized by the natives that they are considered excellent security in the pawn-shops, just as jewelry is in Occidental countries. Mr. Vernon found that he could obtain better examples by visiting the pawn-shops rather then the regular stores and for that reason many of the examples shown bear the purple pawn tickets.
As Java is a hot country and the natives work in the fields raising coffee and sugar, the batiks must be dyed with the very best vegetables dyes to withstand the glare of the sun and frequent washings.
The designs are intricate and beautiful. Many of them are traditional, some are variations of standard patterns and some are original with the worker. From the colors used one can tell in what part of Java the batik was made. For instance, from Djocdja and Solo come batiks in rich tones of brown and tan and deep indigo blues; from Pekalongan, cream and blue, and from Samarong, the batiks done in a variety of colors. Batiks, were introduced into Europe in the XVII century by the Dutch East India Company and since then have been very popular.
The Javanese desiring to make a batik follows the method used since prehistoric times, except that the cotton foundation used now is probably imported from England or Holland whereas in former times it was always homespun.
The first step is to boil the cloth in oil. This gives it a creamy color and a soft texture, almost like kid. Next the cloth is put on a frame and the pattern drawn in with a pencil or a piece of charcoal. After this comes the dyeing and before each color bath, those portions the batiks which are to resist that color must be covered with liquid wax. For this the native uses a tjanting - a cup or reservoir of metal or bamboo with a pipe attachment out of which the wax runs on to the batik. After it has received the dye the wax must be removed with hot water. This process is repeated for each color used.
It is a process requiring so much time and such great skill that it is small wonder the batiks are highly prized.