Sisterhood as strategy : the collaborations of American women artists in the gilded age
This dissertation employs four case studies--illustrator Alice Barber Stephens in Philadelphia; Louisville-born sculptor Enid Yandell; photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston in Washington, D.C.; and the Newcomb College Pottery in New Orleans--to show how individual women artists from a variety of media utilized collaborative strategies to advance their professional careers. These strategies included mentoring, teaching, and sharing commissions with one another; establishing art organizations; sharing studio and living spaces; organizing and participating in all-female art exhibitions; and starting businesses to market their work. At a historical moment when expectations and ideas towards gender roles and feminine performance were shifting, these women artists negotiated these changes as well as those of a fine art world that was redefining itself in an increasingly consumer-based culture that challenged traditional definitions of the "professional" artist. "Sisterhood as Strategy" intersects with important work in the fields of American History, Women's and Gender Studies, and Art History. It bridges a gap between broad, cultural histories of women's artistic production and more focused scholarly studies on women's labor and organized womanhood. Indeed, this dissertation brings more specificity to these areas by focusing on particular artists who were highly acclaimed during their lifetime but who have since fallen through the cracks of the art historical canon and by attending to the wide array of genres and media that all artists, men and women, worked with during the era: illustration, photography, public sculpture, and the decorative arts. By analyzing the art produced as a result of collaboration; the artists' letters, photographs, and personal papers; and contemporary mass media, particularly art journals and popular ladies' magazines, this dissertation recovers the voices of artists who served as professional role models and creates a far more diverse picture of the people and art forms that constituted early modern American visual culture.
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