Before Abstract Design in American Quilts debuted at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1971, many people were unfamiliar with the long-running legacy of bold, graphic design in American pieced quilts. These surprisingly modern-looking compositions attracted new fans, who were pleasantly surprised by the visual complexity of antique pieces made with needle, thread, and fabric. In his review of Abstract Design in American Quilts, New York Times art critic Hilton Kramer asserted that American quiltmakers had produced “a remarkable  succession of visual masterpieces that anticipated many of the forms that were later prized for their originality and courage.” In other words, they were modern before Modern. Today, a new generation of makers carries on the legacy of exploring the aesthetic and graphic possibilities of quilts. 21st-century Modern quilts, as defined by the Modern Quilt Guild, often feature “the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work,” some of which can be seen in these pieced quilts from 70 or more years ago.