Abstract for Women and the Arts in the Long Eighteenth Century (8 March 2019)

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I’m super excited to have had my abstract accepted for the Women and the Arts in the Long Eighteenth Century conference. I’ll be speaking on the topic of ‘Collage before Modernism? Periodization, Gender and Eighteenth-Century Women’s Collage’, abstract below.

Collage before Modernism? Periodization, Gender and Eighteenth-Century Women’s Collage

In the essay ‘Collage: A Brief History’, Dawn Ades writes that ‘when Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque started gluing bits to their pictures in 1912, this had nothing to do with long-standing popular past-times like pasting cut out images onto fire screens, and everything to do with art’. Ades’ statement is typical of existing histories of collage, which tend to figure the genre as the result of modernist innovation, as opposed to a medium with a long and distinctive history. Crucially, the quotation also reinforces a number of entrenched hierarchies within art history: differences between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art forms; divisions of modern and pre-modern; and, most crucially, the gendered separation between artist and amateur. Yet these categorical distinctions pose fundamental questions about the nature of art itself, prompting considerations of how art is defined, of the identities and motivations of those who make it, and of why certain objects have been consistently overlooked by art history.

This paper has two aims, firstly to provide a detailed examination of collage made by women in the long eighteenth-century, arguing for its centrality as a mode of female artistic expression during this period. Secondarily, it will identify periodization as a central evaluative and organisational methodology within art history, arguing that the strict distinction drawn between collage made before and after 1912 is central to the explicitly gendered ways in which collage has been conceptualized, and often dismissed. The paper will address and trouble this sharp division by framing it in terms of the gendered disentanglement of art from craft, whilst highlighting the productive possibilities of a transhistorical approach to collage, which fully takes women’s production of the genre in the long eighteenth century into account.

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