This conference will take a fresh look at decorative arts and design from 1850 to 1920. Rather than separating artists, designers, and artifacts into discrete movements (for example, Colonial Revival, Aesthetic, Arts and Crafts), we will investigate the language of artifacts that bound designers, manufacturers, and consumers together in this time of commercial expansion and moral environmentalism. How did American and Britons (ordinary and extraordinary) understand artifacts and images and how should we then ˇ§readˇ¨ them today?
At this time, many artists and theorists were preoccupied with defining and perfecting ˇ§ornamentˇ¨, ˇ§styleˇ¨, and ˇ§taste.ˇ¨ Owen Jones, for instance, wrote about a ˇ§grammar of ornament.ˇ¨ Through fiction, critical treatises, popular magazines, and promotional trade literature, persons of many classes engaged in lively conversation about the significance of design and decoration. Scholars have argued variously that artifacts of this period are expressions of reform, antimodernism, cosmopolitanism, romantic nationalism, industrialization, imperialism, consumer culture, and spiritual aspiration. We hope to identify and understand the aspects of design that enabled artifacts of this period to convey such rich and varied meanings.
We welcome paper proposals that consider a wide variety of literary and material sources and connect ideas to things. Possible topics might include, but are not limited to:
Objects that challenge/reinforce accepted categories of design.
The commercial display or use/consumption of specific types of artifacts
A comparison of promotional materials to actual artifacts made by a particular company or artist
An analysis of literary descriptions of artifacts and interiors
An analysis of images of period interiors
Eclecticism in architectural design and ornament
The role of particular schools or international exhibitions in design education
The influence of patronage on the development of design
Design and clothing
Please send a 1-2 page paper proposal and c.v. by October 1, 2003.
Conference co-sponsored by the Victorian Society in America
Gretchen T. Buggeln
Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library
Winterthur, DE 19735
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