Women Artists and the Decorative Arts 1880-1935: The Gender of Ornament

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Studies explaining decorative practice in the early modernist period have largely overlooked the work of women artists. For the most part, they have focused on the denigration of decorative work by leading male artists, frequently dismissed as fashionably feminine. With few exceptions, women have been cast as consumers rather than producers. This text examines the decorative strategies of late 19th- and early 20th-century women artists, concentrating in particular on women artists who turned to fashion, interior design and artisanal production as ways of critically engaging various aspects of modernity. Women artists and designers played a vital role in developing a broad spectrum of modernist forms. In these essays new light is shed on the practice of such well-known women artists as May Morris, Clarice Cliff, Natacha Rambova, Eileen Gray and Florine Stettheimer, whose decorative practices are linked with a number lesser known figures such as Phoebe Traquair, Mary Watts, Gluck and Laura Nagy.